Public Library Safety & Security Toolkit



Legal Considerations

Each library operates within a distinct set of legal and jurisdictional requirements, with different provincial laws and municipal regulations or expectations.

Where Legal Consideration Fits in the Library Journey

Though woven through multiple aspects of the library journey, legal considerations are primarily at play in the incident preparation and response parts of the journey. Understanding the legal framework your library must operate in is critical when designing policies and practices to guide staff through incident responses.

Key Considerations

  • Disclosure & Privacy – Customer privacy is a core principle of librarianship and must be considered alongside incident management processes. Customer privacy needs to be balanced against the amount of information necessary to manage staff and customer safety.
  • Freedom of Information/Disclosure Requirements – Though details vary, each province has freedom of information legislation. Each library should understand the circumstances under which information recorded about incidents may be disclosed to external parties (including the people involved in an incident) and educate staff accordingly. The best practice is to assume that the subject of an incident report may one day read it. Therefore, the description of the situation should be as neutral, factual, and objective as possible. Consideration should be given to how subjects are described in an accurate but respectful way. Additionally, in some provinces, OHS legislation may require an employer to disclose to employees if a customer may pose a risk of workplace violence.
  • Photography & Video Surveillance – Many libraries have policies to guide the collection and retention of photography related to incidents. Policies need to address when to take pictures or rely on video surveillance of subjects, where to store such images, who can access them, and if/when they should be removed or disposed of.
  • Working with the Police – Police services are key safety partners for libraries. Policies and procedures may outline what type of situations warrant involving the police to help staff recognize situations when it is and is not appropriate to engage them. Additionally, libraries may consider outlining when personal information about customers may be disclosed to police/law enforcement. Different standards may be established for situations where the library requests assistance versus the police requesting information about a customer unrelated to a situation at the library (i.e. wanting to know what phone number or address is on file for a particular customer for a purpose unrelated to the library).
  • Trespassing – Suspended customers do not always abide by the terms of their suspension. As each province has its own trespass legislation, libraries are encouraged to understand their rights for how to enforce a suspension for a trespassing customer.


Pickering Public Library & Saskatoon Public Library

The Pickering Public Library and Saskatoon Public Library maintain photos of all suspended customers. Pickering includes hardcopies of photos in a binder at all locations while Saskatoon maintains hardcopies only at select locations and digital photos within the suspension database. Both libraries ensure all photos are shredded after the suspensions are completed.

Edmonton Public Library

The Edmonton Public Library applies a more limited approach to retaining images of patrons involved in incidents. Its customer privacy policy states that photos should be added to incident reports on an exception basis, and only for incidents in which staff or customer safety was threatened. Policies also state that photographs should not be taken if it risks escalating the situation and/or compromising staff and customer safety.

Hamilton Public Library

The Hamilton Public Library, within its behaviour response matrix, includes a column indicating which behaviours warrant contacting the local police