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Preventing Overdoses in the Library

by on May 4, 2017

As many librarians can attest, libraries, with their public bathrooms and quiet nooks, are often used for purposes of substance abuse. San Francisco Public Library (SFPL)security guards say many users end up in the library stacks shooting up, or in the bathroom when nobody is around. In fact, San Francisco health department spokeswoman Rachael Kagan said, “San Francisco is a city with lots of drug use, and we consider people with drug-use issues part of the population we feel responsible for.” (Ross 2017)  Currently the San Francisco Department of Public Health has taken action towards the rising number of drug users in and around the library by assigning a few staff members to patrol the area during peak population times (9-10 a.m. and 5-6 p.m.). These representatives try to talk to users about the risks of heroin and also can administer the opioid-blocking drug Naloxone if needed.

The library also has a social worker and six formerly homeless health and safety associates who scour the Main Library and its 27 branches and provide outreach to those in need. Plus there are city police officers assigned to work overtime in and around the Main Library.”  In addition, SFPL is considering training staff members on how to administer Naloxone if they were to encounter someone overdosing in or around the library. This training and participation will be voluntary, and not mandatory for the staff. Naloxone is administered by leg injection or by nasal spray. If this training/program happens, library staff members will be taught how to use the nasal spray.

City police and emergency workers have long been trained how to administer naloxone, which has been in use for decades. The overdose prevention project, operating on a $245,000 annual budget, not only provides the drug, but also trains participants to identify signs of overdosing and how to dispense the lifesaving medication.”


Ross, Matier &. 2017. “SF library workers may get training to save heroin addicts’ lives.” San Francisco Chronicle, March 19.


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