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Library reports concerns

The Bemidji Public Library has experienced an increasing frequency of behavioral problems, librarian Paul Ericsson told the Bemidji City Council Monday evening.

The Bemidji Public Library has experienced an increasing frequency of behavioral problems, librarian Paul Ericsson told the Bemidji City Council Monday evening.

Ericsson, branch manager, provided the council with copies of the library's behavior guidelines. The document both outlines acceptable behaviors and details procedures to address problems.

"Part of my reason in bringing this to you ... is over the past month or so we've been really feeling and then addressing increasing problems," he said.

The policy was put in place about a year ago. Ericsson said recent problems have escalated to the point where library staff may need to take the next steps, including the suspension of library borrowing services or banning someone from the premises for some time.

"That is exactly where we are right now with our current wave of issues," he said. "It's a challenge. It's a public building."

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Ericsson praised the library staff, saying they have done a "wonderful job" in addressing the situations.

"I believe, and this is my opinion, many of these issues that we are addressing are related to public drunkenness and drug abuse," he said, noting that the physical state of the subjects alone make finding resolutions "challenging."

City councilors were concerned about the situation.

"The idea that our library staff should have to be trained to deal with this situation is unfortunate and alarming," said Councilor Rita Albrecht.

She asked if Mike Mastin, the police chief, was aware of the problems and if there was a way that police, or perhaps its Citizen's Patrol, could help curb the behaviors.

"We will be on top of it," said City Manager John Chattin. "Unfortunately, this isn't a problem just at the library. It's also a problem at the Law Enforcement Center lobby and many public buildings in the city of Bemidji."

Councilor Greg Negard asked if the use of the library was impacted by the bad behaviors.

Ericsson said he has heard comments about situations from some patrons, days or weeks after visiting, but they did not alert library staff to the situations at the time.

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"I hope that through public discussion about this we will continue to assure people that up until now, none of these has actually been an issue of personal safety to any library patrons," he said. "Certainly there is some discomfort about the behavior but in no instance have we had any real problem of physical safety."

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