Wednesday, February 22, 2017 Standing room only: Central library's chairless main floor a hit with patrons in downtown Calgary

Central branch removed chairs, increased security, in bid to reduce 'inappropriate activity'

CBC News 
Feb 21, 2017

The Calgary Public Library removed all of the chairs on the main floor of its central branch in an effort to make the location a safer place for patrons. (CBC)

The main branch of the Calgary Public Library has become a safer, more family-friendly environment thanks to a redesigned main floor and some extra security, according to the library's CEO.

More than a year ago, the library removed most of the chairs on the ground floor, which were often being monopolized by disruptive visitors.

Calgary Public Library CEO Bill Ptacek says the inner-city location of the main creates particular challenges, but the new open concept layout, and added security, have helped the branch achieve a 12-per-cent decrease in "drug and alcohol-related incidents."

Video: Fewer chairs and fewer problems at Calgary's central branch library

"We decided that we need to figure out how to deal with this, these different populations in this urban environment, in this building before we moved to the new building," Ptacek said.

The library worked with Mount Royal University and the Calgary police to identify the types of physical changes they could make within the building to make it comfortable for lots of people to be there while making sure the library wasn't the centre for "inappropriate activity."

Randy Pages, a Calgary homeless advocate, says he used to spend up to eight hours a day at the library when he himself was homeless.

"When they had all the chair and tables, it was just insane here," he said. "You'd have a table with 12 people hanging around it ... and they were getting louder and louder," Pages said.

Pages says despite the lack of chairs and added security to keep a watchful eye on homeless people who are known to congregate in the library, he agrees with the changes.

"I do feel a little bit safer because they are dealing with a certain type of riff raff that needs to be dealt with," he said.

The main source of noise in the library now comes from a fire truck installation where fire fighters and sometime Mayor Naheed Nenshi come by once in a while to read books to kids.

Parent Falak Shekir's says she's more comfortable bringing her children to the library since the changes.

"It's become much safer to come with the kids, I've noticed this." she said,

Ptacek said last year, the entire library system has gotten a boost in popularity, having been visited about 400,000 more times than the year before.

He expects that number to grow even more when the new Central Library location opens next year in the East Village.

With files from Kate Adach


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