CUPE has released a report revealing increased incidents of violence faced by public library workers in Saskatchewan while on the job.

The report, “Turning the Page,” is based on a survey of CUPE library workers conducted last year in response to reports of a growing number of violent incidents occurring in Saskatchewan public libraries. Results of the survey show a majority of respondents reporting having experienced or witnessed violence in their workplace. Of those who responded to the survey:

  • 78% reported having experienced verbal abuse.
  • 71% reported witnessing violence.
  • 50% reported experiencing violence.
  • 44% reported experiencing sexual harassment.
  • 40% reported being threatened with physical harm.

“This report makes it clear that public library workers across the province are facing unacceptable incidents of harassment, abuse, and violence in their workplaces,” said Judy Henley, president of CUPE Saskatchewan. “Libraries are essential community hubs that so many rely on as places to gather and access programming in addition to borrowing books and other materials. More needs to be done to make sure our libraries are welcoming and safe places for both workers and the public.”

Most survey respondents reported that incidents of workplace violence have increased over the past two years, identifying mental health and addiction issues as the most common causes of incidents. Nearly half of all who responded to the survey reported assisting or intervening with a member of the public experiencing an overdose or other trauma.

“Libraries are already understaffed, and library workers are simply not equipped to deal with these issues,” added Henley. “Libraries should be accessible to all community members, but there needs to be more support to be able to handle mental health and addictions, and preventative measures put in place to avoid incidents of workplace violence or trauma from occurring.”

Recommendations in the report to reduce incidences of workplace violence in public libraries include better training for staff, particularly on de-escalation and dealing with mental health challenges; additional library staff; additional and better-trained security; zero tolerance for violence; and social workers and Elders at some branches.

101 public library workers participated in CUPE’s workplace violence survey, which represents 15.5% of CUPE’s library sector membership in Saskatchewan. The online survey was conducted from June 29 to September 9, 2022.

CUPE represents approximately 650 public library workers across the province who work in three municipal library systems and five regional library systems: Regina, Saskatoon, Lakeland (North Battleford area); Palliser (Moose Jaw area); Parkland (Yorkton area); Southeast (Weyburn area); Wapiti (Central Saskatchewan) and John M. Cuelenaere (Prince Albert).

The full report is attached.