Public Library Safety & Security Toolkit

Calgary Public Library – Reading with Royalty



The CULC/CBUC Safety and Security Working Group worked with Temple Scott Associates, a government and public relations firm, to develop a Government Relations and Public Relations Strategy specifically related to Safety and Security. The strategy will target municipal, provincial and federal stakeholders. The CULC/CBUC Executive will lead the strategy, with members using the information below to raise awareness with their own elected officials (local and provincial). Coordination will be led by the CULC/CBUC Executive Director and CULC/CBUC Executive, and will build on the collaborative CUI and CULC/CBUC report OVERDUE: The Case for Canada’s Public Libraries and accompanying advocacy and communications efforts.


Public libraries across Canada are facing an unprecedented increase in the frequency and intensity of security and safety incidents in their spaces. While Canada’s urban libraries are intentionally accessible and welcoming spaces for all residents – including those at risk – library facilities and their workers do not have the training or resources to address the serious mental health and addiction issues happening within library facilities across the country.

The strategy focuses on:

  • Building a narrative for government to clearly outline the safety and security problem that exists in Canada’s urban libraries.
  • Increasing awareness with the government and the general public of the serious nature and impact on library services of security and safety issues, and CULC/CBUC’s views on what needs to be addressed and how.
  • Working with allied stakeholders to ensure governments take action and fund community organizations best equipped to deal with those who require mental health and addiction assistance.

The strategy’s goal is to get every level of government to act in their respective capacities. To do so, this plan outlines a prolonged multi-faceted campaign that gains media attention and becomes a top-of-mind issue for constituents (and voters) and becomes impossible for governments to ignore.


Libraries are not alone in facing the societal challenges of safety and security concerns arising from poor mental health and addiction. Transit systems, community centres, and private businesses face these same challenges and seek solutions from governments. The impact on libraries is felt by users and staff – including children and the elderly – who are especially impacted if the local library is perceived as an unsafe space.

Media and the public view safety and security issues in urban cores as a societal problem that governments must address. In B.C., a direct call from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities3 (UBCM) expressing concerns about the effects of decriminalizing certain illicit drugs gained significant media attention. Public buy-in and concern with the issue led to a commitment from BC Premier David Eby to help municipalities deal with the issue of drug use in public spaces. Organized voices and calls for action can pay dividends in government policy.

Canada’s urban public libraries, as represented by the Canadian Urban Libraries Council / Conseil des Bibliothèques Urbaines du Canada (CULC/CBUC), are seeking solutions. To be clear, we are not seeking funding resources to allow us to address safety and security issues on-site. We are seeking government support so that existing funding is used for services directly tied to the core mandate of public libraries. Front line support of ongoing mental health and addictions issues are outside our mandates. We are ill-equipped and do not have the capacity to address these issues. Furthermore, libraries must continue to focus on our mandates, as a foundation for creating opportunities for learning, literacy, and preserving cultural heritage.

CULC/CBUC members are asking that federal, provincial, and municipal governments understand the specific challenges facing urban libraries. The solution isn’t in changing the role of libraries in the community but in appropriately funding community mental health and addiction services and policing: services which may already exist but are unable to adequately fulfill their role due to inconsistent funding and other stressors. We ask that governments ensure the community, through these existing community resources, have at hand the resources to address these challenges wherever they may be taking place in the community – at libraries (which is our focus) but also on transit, in community centres or in retail/private businesses.

Key Messaging

  • Canada’s libraries are welcoming places for all community members and provide critical services in our  communities that meet the needs of children, youth, seniors, new Canadians, and the unemployed.
  • Canada’s urban libraries are integral to a vibrant democracy, a strong economy, and thriving communities. Community libraries promote the value of learning, literacy, access to technology, digital literacy and workforce development in an enjoyable and relaxing  environment.
  • Communities thrive when local  libraries are able to provide their core  services of providing access to literacy  and learning and as an important  gathering place for community  members.
  • All community members have the right to access our libraries. Libraries do everything they can to ensure this is always the case.
  • Library staff are routinely ready to step up and meet the needs of the community, but there are limitations on what society can expect of them.
  • Library staff are not equipped to deal with instances of overdose or those experiencing serious mental health and addiction issues on site – including the safety and security issues that are  common in Canada’s urban libraries.
  • By way of example, Edmonton Public Library experienced almost 100 overdoses on site in 2022. Other urban libraries are experiencing similar numbers.
  • A survey of 33 urban Canadian public libraries found the most common types of incidents at libraries across the country are: drugs and/or alcohol (including paraphernalia and intoxication), violent or harassing  behaviour, and trespassing by banned/suspended customers:
    • These incidents threaten the view of libraries as safe and welcoming places and cause trauma for those employees and users – many of whom desperately need access to a library – that witness these incidents on site.
    • While violent incidents are a small fraction of all library visits (less than 0.001% of all visits), they are increasing)
  • We know we are not alone. Transit systems, community centres, and retail/private businesses are experiencing these issues.
  • We want to ensure that those groups in our communities, who have as their mandate to assist those with mental health and addiction issues, have the resources from the federal and provincial governments to engage those
    individuals at risk and help them with the professionalism and experience they have at hand.

Supporting Information

  • Safe and welcoming libraries. A key part of a healthy community. Literacy, which libraries actively support and grow, is a key social determinant of health. Multiple studies find that higher literacy rates correlate with more positive
    health outcomes.
  • Libraries offer incredible value. For every $1 invested in Canada’s urban libraries, $6 is generated in community impact.
  • Libraries are at their best when any member of the community can safely access their services. Libraries provide many valuable services for job
    seekers, newcomers, students, and the community as a whole. Research affirms that access to safe amenities like libraries is critical to creating thriving communities and helping children succeed.
  • Library staff are excellent at what they do. Libraries need professional healthcare and community organizations to drive the response to mental health and addictions issues

When advocating, emphasize the amount of time and money spent dealing with security issues and the lack of sustainable funding available to community organizations such as housing, social services, respite centres, shelters and mental health organizations.

Value of Libraries

Public libraries contribute to their communities in many significant ways:

  1. Public libraries are critical to the economy. As literacy levels rise in a population, so does productivity. A 1% increase in adult literacy would create an economic benefit of $67 billion gross domestic product for Canada per year (Deloitte LLP. An Economic Overview of Children’s Literacy in Canada). Public library funding is dollar for dollar one of the most effective and impactful uses of public funds. Libraries also help people find employment with resources for job seekers, including resume assistance, job search  workshops, and access to online job databases.
  2. Public libraries drive innovation. Libraries are constantly adapting to support growing and changing community needs. This iterative process creates the services and service models of tomorrow. Libraries also introduce people to technology that is not widely accessible in the community and act as a dynamic hub where the collision of ideas and skills inspires new ways of thinking, doing, and creating.
  3. Public libraries improve digital literacy and access. Libraries bridge the digital divide with free internet access, technology tools, and training. In a world where technology is embedded in all aspects of information sharing, digital literacy is needed to participate in many aspects of our society and  economy.
  4. Public libraries promote literacy and education. Literacy has a huge impact on a person’s ability to navigate life, find employment, secure housing, and access services. Libraries promote literacy through programs like story hours for children, adult literacy classes, and homework help for students, fostering lifelong learning and skill development.
  5. Public libraries prepare children to succeed in school. Libraries  facilitate early childhood development with early literacy tools and resources that are the building blocks for children’s happy and healthy development. Early literacy sets the course for a child’s future and largely determines how well they do in school. Literacy also impacts children’s physical and mental health, relationships, and general well-being.
  6. Public libraries help people of all ages become lifelong learners.  While the ideal starting point is in early childhood, many have faced barriers to learning throughout their lives that discouraged their curiosity in lifelong learning. Libraries reduce these barriers and invite people back to lifelong learning in ways that meet their individual needs. We open new doors of possibility that inspire people to reengage in learning, enrichment, and skill development.
  7. Public libraries provide communities with unmatched value and access to a world of knowledge and information. Libraries offer free access to a vast collection of books, magazines, newspapers, and digital  resources, ensuring that all community members can access the resources and information they need.
  8. Public libraries are an essential gathering place. Public libraries are open to all. In a society where free public space can be limited, libraries are an essential 3rd place between work and the home. We provide welcoming, safe, and inclusive spaces for community members to meet, study, work, or attend events, which creates social cohesion and a sense of belonging. While the pandemic created new opportunities for digital innovation and service expansion, it also highlighted that physical library spaces are essential to daily life for many in our community.
  9. Public libraries help build healthy communities. Every day, more and more people depend on public libraries for services — whether it’s training for a new job, access to the internet, early literacy development, or support via outreach and referrals. Libraries actively engage with communities and through partnerships to tailor these services to local needs.
  10. Public libraries make services more accessible. Libraries reach people where they are at when they need it most. We are uniquely positioned to provide services both in-person and digitally, while extending the reach of
    services provided by a network of partners. Together, we build a stronger network of information, learning, and enrichment opportunities that create greater impact in the community.
  11. Public libraries welcome newcomers. New Canadians are a significant portion of city populations. Public libraries are central hubs of information and resources for newcomers to help them transition into their new community.
    For many newcomers, a library card is their first piece of identification.
  12. Libraries enrich culture and help preserve local history. Libraries champion the ideals of respect, tolerance, inclusion, and equality for all people. We host cultural events, author talks, book clubs, and art exhibitions, enriching the cultural life of the community and encouraging creativity and expression. Libraries also support the preservation of a community’s cultural heritage by providing access to historical documents and sharing the stories of our past
    that help us shape our future. The Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action assert the need to share the truth of our past and connect individuals together to learn and heal in a journey of reconciliation.
  13. Libraries protect the fundamental freedoms of thought, beliefs and expression that allow every Canadian to gather different ideas, hear all sides of an issue and compile information to be well-informed. Society is better off engaging with complex, difficult and even controversial content rather than being sheltered through censorship. It is the responsibility of libraries to guarantee and facilitate access to all expressions of knowledge and intellectual activity, including those which some members of society may consider to be unconventional, unpopular, or unacceptable

Draft Municipal Motion

WHEREAS, the (Name of Municipality) recognizes the important role that libraries play in our community and libraries provide welcoming places for community members; and

WHEREAS, Libraries offer important services for at-risk groups in our communities – including children, youth, seniors, vulnerable communities, new Canadians, the homeless, and the unemployed; and

WHEREAS, Libraries thrive when communities utilize their core services and, in turn, strengthen the links that build communities.

WHEREAS, libraries are being placed under significant pressure by mental health and addiction issues taking place on library premises in our community, posing risks to both library staff and other library users;

WHEREAS, Libraries do not have the mandate or the necessary resources to effectively deal with the safety and security issues that are occurring on their premises, and that these risks making our libraries a less welcoming place for community members – including those most needing the use of library resources;

WHEREAS, the federal and provincial government have the resources and jurisdiction to support those community organizations best positioned to assist those requiring mental health and addiction support;

Now, there be it resolved that the (Name of Municipality) do hereby:

  1. Indicate our support for the Canadian Urban Libraries Council in its efforts to ensure the federal and provincial governments across Canada understand the serious mental health and addiction issues that are impacting our libraries.
  2. Call on the Federal and Provincial Governments to provide those community organizations which have a mandate to address mental health and addiction issues sustainable ongoing funding so that they can prevent organizations, like our libraries, from redirecting needed resources to this critical problem.
  3. Ask our elected officials at the federal and provincial level to further prioritize this issue in their discussions with their legislative colleagues as part of Budget discussions.

Government Relations – Engagement Map

Federal & Provincial Ministers with Responsibilities over Mental Health & Addiction

Federal Government
Ya’ara SaksMinister of Mental Health & Addictions, Associate
Minister of Health

The Minister is responsible for improving and overseeing Canada’s response to mental health and addiction issues.

Mandate letter:

  • Sustain improved access to virtual mental health services with Wellness Together Canada.
  • Advance a comprehensive strategy to address problematic substance use in Canada, supporting efforts to improve public education to reduce stigma, and supporting provinces and territories and working with Indigenous communities to provide access to a full range of evidence-based treatment and harm reduction, as well as to create standards for substance use treatment programs.
Sarah WelchChief of Staff
Shaili PatelDirector of Policy
Heather JeffreyPresident of Public Health Agency of Canada
Dominic LeBlancMinister of Public Safety

Responsible for public security, oversight of law enforcement and its enforcement of criminal code, as well as first responders.

Mandate letter:

  • Engage with provinces, territories and municipalities that contract RCMP services to better connect the RCMP with community social support workers.
  • Continue advancing Canada’s first-ever National Action Plan on Post-Traumatic Stress Injuries, including additional investment to support the health and well-being of first responders.
Cory PikeChief of Staff
Gowthaman KurasamyDirector of Operations
Shawn TupperDeputy Minister of Public Safety
Aleksandra HretczakChief of Staff to the Deputy Minister
Patty HajduMinister of Indigenous Services

Responsibility and oversight over First Nations and Indigenous Health Branch. This includes programs for substance use affecting First Nation and Inuit peoples.

Mandate letter:

  • With the support of the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, co-develop and invest in a distinctions-based Mental Health and Wellness Strategy to meet the needs of First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation, including culturally appropriate wraparound services for addictions and trauma, suicide and life promotion and the building of treatment centres.
Katherine HeusChief of Staff to the Deputy Minister
Jordano NudoDirector of Policy
Gina WilsonDeputy Minister
Candice St. AubinSenior Assistant Deputy Minister, First Nations Inuit Health Branch
British Columbia
Adrian DixMinister of Health

Responsible for overall funding structure of BC health authority, including hospitals and creation of long-term care options for substance abuse problems.

Mandate letter:

  • Continue to lead and accelerate BC’s response to the illicit drug toxicity crisis across the full continuum of care: prevention, harm reduction, safe supply, treatment, and recovery.
  • Expand new complex care, treatment, recovery, detox, and after-care facilities across the province, while building a new model of treatment offering seamless care through detox, treatment, and supportive housing so people don’t fall through the cracks and can get quality care when and where they need it.
Theresa HoChief of Staff
Karin MacMillanDeputy Chief of Staff
Stephen BrownDeputy Minister
Jennifer WhitesideMinister of Mental Health &

Has specific mandate to
improve mental health and
addiction services in the
province, including overdose response and
long-term addiction care.

  • Continue to lead and accelerate BC’s response to the illicit drug toxicity crisis across the full continuum of care – prevention, harm reduction, safe supply, treatment, and recovery.
  • Expand BC’s prescribed safe supply programs to separate more people from the toxic drug supply through safe alternatives. Work with regulatory colleges, professional associations, and other levels of government to overcome barriers.
  • Work to improve public safety in our communities, including by implementing initiatives to address repeat and violent offending.
  • Free up police to focus on serious crime through provincial investments in community-based mental health and social service front-line workers, such as Peer-Assisted Care Teams
Seamus WolfeChief of Staff
Christine MasseyDeputy Minister
Mike FarnworthMinister of Public Safety & Solicitor General

Working with large municipalities and exploring the future of response teams and care programs which currently use police in combination with
healthcare workers to respond to addictions and mental health crises.

  • Convene roundtables with community leaders across the province on safety issues in their communities to identify ways to work in partnership on these issues.
Michael SnoddonChief of Staff
Adriana LaGrangeMinister of Health

Mandate letter:

  • Working closely with the Minister of Mental Health and Addiction, who is the lead, to ensure that recovery from mental health and addiction and increasing the recovery capital of Albertans is a guiding policy in modernizing Alberta’s primary health care system.
Andre TremblayDeputy Minister
Nicole WilliamsChief of Staff
Mike EllisMinister of Public Safety & Emergency Services

Responsible for response to mental health and addiction emergencies, overseeing project studying AB provincial police.

Mandate letter:

  • Immediately implementing the Safe Streets Action Plan, including adding at least 100 new patrol officers for Calgary and Edmonton, and assessing whether more officers are needed.
  • Creating specialized sheriff-led anti-fentanyl and illegal gun trafficking teams including at the Canada-U.S. border.
Rae-Ann LajeunesseDeputy Minister
Yonathan SumamoChief of Staff
Dan WilliamsMinister of Mental Health & Addiction

Responsible for Alberta’s mental health and addiction care, heavily focused on recovery and prevention.

Mandate letter:

  • Increasing support for addiction and mental health prevention by expanding resiliency education in schools.
  • Working collaboratively with community and government partners to develop compassionate intervention legislation, supporting facilities and legal processes to save the lives of those that are a danger to themselves or others.
  • Implementing recovery community centres for youth in major centres throughout the province.
Evan RomanowDeputy Minister
Eric EnglerChief of Staff
(no mandate letters)
Everett HindleyMinister of HealthThe department has a lead role in mental health and addiction, with Minister Hindley leading this effort.
Clint FoxChief of Staff
Christian KainzMinisterial Assistant – Policy
Tracey SmithDeputy Minister
Tim McLeodMinister of Mental Health & Addictions, Senior & Rural & Remote Health
Elias NelsonChief of Staff
Uzuma AsawaraMinister of Health

Mandate letter:

  • Provide responsive and compassionate care to survivors of sexual assault by hiring 7 more full-time positions in the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program and creating a provincial SANE strategy to improve access to care in rural and northern communities.
  • Work with health care workers and the department of Housing, Addiction and Homelessness to reduce child mortality over two terms by doubling the Manitoba prenatal benefit and implementing a province-wide suicide prevention strategy which will include a focus on 2SLGBTQ+ youth.
  • Collaborate with local leadership and communities to support new and innovative ways to deliver Indigenous health.
Scott SinclairDeputy Minister
Bernadette SmithMinister of Housing, Addictions & Homelessness, and Minister responsible for Mental Health

Mandate letter:

  • Work with municipalities to end chronic homelessness in two terms of government by connecting people with housing and wrap-around supports, with children as the first priority.
  • Work with the department of Justice to hire 100 mental health workers to work alongside law enforcement and community organizations.
  • Expand detox beds and treatment options so Manitobans have the support they need to overcome addiction.
  • Listen to public health experts and take a harm reduction approach to the addictions crisis.
  • Establish a supervised consumption site in downtown Winnipeg to save lives and connect Manitobans with health care and social supports.
  • Work with experts to create systems for testing toxic drugs to help save lives.
Catherine GatesDeputy Minister
no mandate letters
Sylvia JonesMinister of HealthMinistry is responsible for the provision of all healthcare in the province, including partnerships with private healthcare providers
Vijay ChauhanChief of Staff
Chris DacunhaExecutive Director of Policy
Catherine ZahnDeputy Minister
Dane NelsonDirector, Policy & Delivery
Michael TibolloAssociate Minister of Mental Health & AddictionsMore specific responsibility for mental health, addictions care, and planning within the province.
Suzanne DennisonChief of Staff
Drew MaharajDirector of Policy
(no mandate letters)
Christian DubéMinister of HealthMinister of Health administers SUAP funding from Canada for the province and has overall jurisdiction on Québec healthcare
Julie LussierChief of Staff
Daniel ParéDeputy Minister
Joanne CastonguayCommissioner of Health & WellbeingCivil servants in the ministry of health with specific oversight into public health and wellbeing, including addiction and mental health.
Denis RoyMedical Advisor
Christian DuboisSecretary General
Nova Scotia
Brian ComerMinister of Communications, Minister Responsible for Office of Mental Health, & Addictions

The ministry works with provincial health authorities to provide addictions and mental health funding and measure progress.

Mandate letter:

  • Compile and analyze robust data to determine where improvement is needed and where the department is seeing success. Be responsible for working with individuals, communities, and community organizations to make sure that every resource is on the same page, striving for the same goal – overall community wellness. Where appropriate, establish long-term core funding that empowers these organizations to focus on doing what they do best.
Kathleen TrottDeputy Minister, Office of Addictions & Mental Health
Samuel HickoxChief Officer, Ministry of Mental Health
Michelle ThompsonMinister of Health and WellnessMinistry of health has jurisdiction on the overall direction of the Nova Scotian healthcare system
New Brunswick
(no mandate letters)
Bruce FritchMinister of HealthThe Addiction and Mental Health Services Branch oversees the delivery of the following services through the two regional health authorities: Addiction Services (short- and longterm rehabilitation services, outpatient services and methadone clinics); Community Mental Health Centres (prevention, intervention and postvention services); Adult Community Mental Health Services (short- and longterm interventions to adults); and In-patient Psychiatric Care (in-patient and day hospital services through the psychiatric units of regional hospitals and the province’s two psychiatric hospitals). It is also responsible for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and the Youth Treatment Program.
Kathy ConnorsExecutive Assistant
Eric BeaulieuDeputy Minister
Sherry WilsonMinister Responsible for Additions & Mental Health Services
Prince Edward Island
(mandate letters not available)
Mark McLaneMinister of Health & WellnessMinistry of Health and Wellness works with other social policy departments on a renewed Mental Health and Addiction strategy.
Sandra AcornExecutive Assistant to Minister
Lisa ThibeauDeputy Minister
Barb RamsayMinister of Social Development & SeniorsContributing to Mental Health and Addictions Strategy
Teresa HenneberyDeputy Minister
Newfoundland & Labrador
Tom OsborneMinister of Health & Community Services

Mandate letter:

  • Implement “Towards Recovery: A Vision for a Renewed Mental Health and Addictions System for Newfoundland and Labrador”, including ensuring that the voice of lived experience is heard in all our work through the support of our Recovery Council, composed solely of individuals with lived experience and family members.
  • Oversee the development and plans for the opening of the new Mental Health and Addictions Facility.
John McGrathDeputy Minister

List current as of January 30, 2024