DOVER — The library director in Dover is locking the public bathroom doors and limiting access to them after two years of dealing with drug use and overdoses in a space designed for community involvement and childhood learning.
Cathleen Beaudoin says no one has ever approached a child, but there are concerns about kids being exposed to drug and alcohol misuse because all four of the bathrooms are near areas where children gather.
Three bathrooms are close to the children’s room, and a fourth is on the top floor where parents bring their kids for events.
The bathrooms near the children’s room are next to a main entrance, where people come in and out throughout the day, sometimes just to warm up or cool down and clean up.
Beaudoin said that though staff members in the children’s room are attentive, they don’t always notice if someone has been using the public restrooms for an extended period of time.
“It’s not good because the parents will say, ‘Oh, I’ll be right here. Just run across to the restroom.’ And we always say, ‘No, no, go with them.’ Nothing has ever happened. Nobody has ever been approached. But we have found needles in the bathroom at times,” Beaudoin said.
Beaudoin said employees haved called 911 several times in the past two years to report overdoses.
Locking the bathroom doors will protect the 600 people a day who use the library, Beaudoin said. Bathroom keys will be available at the adult circulation desk.
Dover police Lt. Brant Dolleman said that in the past two years, their department has seen an uptick in calls for service relating to welfare checks and concerns about drug use across the board. He said what is happening at the library is a snapshot of that trend.
“We get calls about people using drugs in restrooms all over town. It’s not just the library. We get those calls from convenience stores as well as fast-food restaurants. We get them from laundromats sometimes with concerns that somebody might be high or passed out,” Dolleman said.
Dolleman said police officers go to the library on a regular basis to interact with people on a non-enforcement level. He points out that the library is located downtown next to the McConnell Center and a large public parking lot, which is a busy area.
Beaudoin is hopeful that a remodeling project scheduled for three years from now will create a separate space for children to use the restrooms.
In the meantime, Beaudoin is preparing to change the hardware on the four public bathrooms so only a key given out by staff members can be used for entry.
The library’s board of trustees is scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss the issue.