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Overdue or overdose: A librarian's dilemma

   Those who thought the digital age would signal the death of libraries seriously underestimated the versatility of librarians.  Libraries have been diligent in re-purposing themselves from their traditional role to providing computer access and trainings to becoming a home for writing groups, speakers and clubs.  And now it seems that a librarian's role is being stretched a bit further.

   Those of us who live in small-town America may be oblivious to challenges faced by inner-city libraries, but a recent article by Annie Correal in the New York Times highlights the issue:  drug users are finding libraries a convenient place to hang out, shoot up and sometimes--unfortunately-- overdose.  In many places around the country, librarians are being trained on the use of Narcan, the brand name of naloxone, which is used to reverse overdoses.  Responses are mixed:  some are reluctant to get trained, citing their lack of medical background and issues of liability while others take on the responsibility readily knowing that the few minutes that can be gained by using Narcan before the arrival of medical teams may be the minutes that will save a life.  In addition to concerns about administering Narcan, there are general concerns about the dangers of having drug paraphernalia left behind or hidden in bathrooms and other areas of the library.  Add to this, of course, the general drama caused by the entrance of an emergency medical team and the ensuing treatment process, a rather jolting distraction from any other activity going on at the time.  But the real issue here  is saving human lives.

    The seriousness of the issue prompted Representative Sean Patrick Maloney from New York to introduce the Lifesaving Librarians Act in Washington.  Through a federal grant,  libraries in "high-intensity drug-trafficking areas" would be offered access to naloxone kits and training.

    According to Mr. Maloney, "While it seems shocking to be finding heroin at the public library--that's where we are...  This is an all-hands-on-deck situation."

     Some say Narcan kits and training are within the scope of a library's role of meeting the needs of the community.  Others think of it as merely one more indication of how wide-spread the crisis has become.  As an indication of the pervasiveness of addiction, we used to say it could be happening to your neighbor, the family down the street.  Now we perhaps we can say this instead:  addiction may be staring you in the face... from the neighboring chair in the reading room  of your local library.





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