Winnipeg mayor, CAO now hope Millennium Library will reopen by end of January

With the original window for reopening the Millennium Library by mid-January passed, City of Winnipeg officials now say they hope the facility will return to regular service by the end of the month.

More than a month after the fatal stabbing of Tyree Cayer at the downtown library on Dec. 11 prompted its closure, no reopening date has been announced. 

The library allowed visitors make returns and pick up holds again at Millennium starting late last month as part of a phased reopening, but visitors still aren’t able to enter the branch for now.

Last month, the city said it anticipated full services would resume by mid-January. On Tuesday, however, Mayor Scott Gillingham and other officials would not commit to a date. 

“It’s going to be soon. When we’re ready to tell you exactly when, I assure you, you’ll all be the first to know,” City of Winnipeg chief administrative officer Michael Jack told reporters at city hall, following a meeting of the executive policy committee.

Gillingham and city councillor John Orlikow, who chairs the city’s community services committee, “certainly want to see this open by the end of January,” said Jack. “And I’m feeling very, very confident we’ll be able to do that.”

Gillingham echoed those comments in a news conference with reporters on Tuesday.

“We do want to make sure that the library is safe and secure, that our staff can have confidence that it’s a safe place to work, and that Winnipeggers who use the library … have certainty that it’s a safe place for them to visit,” he said.

The president of the union representing library workers told members of the media on Monday he doubted Millennium would reopen this week.

Discussions continue between the city and staff about what additional security measures are needed, Jack said. Staff are already receiving training on how to handle safety issues, and Jack said no options have been ruled out.

That includes a possible return of metal detectors and bag checks, which the library introduced in 2019, but later discontinued.

Jack called that “a distinct possibility.”

A security consultant has been hired to conduct a safety audit of the building. They could recommend physical changes to the layout of the library, but Gillingham said the reopening will happen before those recommendations are made.

“Preliminary measures will be put in place, and what we see when the library opens most likely will not be the final configuration of the library, nor perhaps even the final configuration of what agencies are in the library,” he said.

Jack expects the library’s “community safety hosts” — certified security guards who receive training in trauma-related crisis work and harm reduction — will likely return when the library reopens.

The Community Connections space, which the city opened last year to help connect library users with social supports, will likely not return immediately, Jack said.

“We focused on … getting the library proper open as quickly as we could. Community Connections, that discussion will take place later,” he said.

Safety concerns at the library stem not only from the stabbing death of Cayer, but from a rise in incidents reported last year. 

According to data from the city, there were 198 safety-related incidents reported in 2022, compared to 14 in 2021.

The 2022 figures include 66 reports of verbal abuse, 44 cases of intoxication, 35 threats, 32 assaults and 21 harassment incidents.