On Monday, September 9, Winnipeg took a big step towards ending the airport-like security screening at the downtown Millennium library. The metal detector and bag check screenings were introduced by library management in February, responding to staff safety concerns. CUPE 500 President Gord Delbridge, representing Millennium Library workers, also supported the screenings. This was the first time in Canada this kind of security has been introduced at a library.
The screening was implemented as a response to reported violent incidents from staff, but without much consultation from the broader community. The grassroots group Millennium for All formed to force library management to have a community discussion back in February, arguing the security will deter people from visiting the library, and is based on racist assumptions about people who are unhoused and who experience addiction.”
On September 3, the Winnipeg Library released its long awaited written report to the city on the impacts and effectiveness of the screenings. The report claims that violent incidents have gone down, staff are feeling safer, and that the security screening should be made permanent. It also reports that attendance in the library has gone down by 32% since the measures were introduced.
Millennium for All has criticized the statistics and methodology used the Library’s report, and so, in addition to hosting regular community actions throughout the summer, assembled their own report putting forward alternatives to security screening.
Millennium for All and the Library both presented their reports to the Standing Policy Committee on Protection, Community Services and Parks, on Monday, September 9. Millennium for All supporters packed the committee room, and many community members signed up to speak. The audio in this episode only features some of the presenters, and some speeches have been condensed.
In order of appearance: Millennium for All organizers Dr. Joe Curnow, musician Jon K Samson and librarian Brianne Selman, as well as director of Social Planning Council Kate Kehler and community member Jason Pinkney, followed by Millennium for All organizer Andrew Kohan and again Dr. Joe Curnow. Closing out are statements from committee chairperson and city councillor Sherri Rollins.
The committee agreed to adopt Recommendations 1-7 put forward in the Library’s report – but pulled Recommendation 5 which would have made the security screening permanent.
Rollins also made a second motion to request funding from the province to cover the costs of implementing these recommendations, which, according to the Winnipeg Free Press, included hiring two permanent community crisis workers, a “public facing community connections space” in the Millennium Library front lobby for the community crisis workers, a community-led cultural provider program a consultant to provide staff training in non-violent crisis intervention, mental health first aid and substance awareness, and a train-the-trainer program to build internal capacity and ongoing training of staff.
Rollins believes these measures will pave the way for an exit strategy to remove the security screening.
Millennium for All’s tweeted about what they hope the next steps will be:
“Consultation with communities. Real data analysis if @wpglibrary releases data. Making a plan to make the library security less harmful as things get colder. And a clear timeline we can hold them accountable to.”
– Watch the full committee meeting –
-Millennium for All Report-
Previous Episode on Library Security | Host of Crackdown podcast Garth Mullins & Owen Toews, author of Stolen City: Racial Capitalism & the Making of Winnipeg