As Drug Use Increases in Public Library Restrooms, So Do Exclusions

After a pandemic lull, long-term exclusions for law-breaking are on the rise.

People have always lit up joints in the restrooms of Multnomah County’s library branches. Now, they’re using stronger drugs.

“While the issue of illegal activity is not new, library locations have experienced more instances of suspected meth use in restrooms,” says Multnomah County Public Library spokesman Shawn Cunningham. Fentanyl too, he added. The issue’s been popping up since the middle of last year. The library system has had to temporarily limit access to restrooms as a result, sometimes requiring keys or prioritizing families, Cunningham explains.

It’s not clear just how dangerous second-hand fentanyl or meth smoke is. The county health department issued a memo downplaying the issue in February. “There are no known local cases of a bystander or responder suffering serious health effects from breathing in secondhand meth or fentanyl smoke,” it noted.

Still, the library is prepared. “We have a protocol in place to close restrooms for 30 minutes to air out spaces before they are returned to service,” Cunningham says.

So, how many times have library patrons been caught lighting up? “The library doesn’t have a database of such incidents per se,” Cunningham says.

But it does track the number of patrons excluded for illicit activities, including drug use.

Here’s the number of people that have been given lengthy exclusions from Multnomah County Libraries over the years.

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