Libraries Closed over Meth Contamination


Closure Notice on Englewood Library Door | Image by City of Englewood

A suburban library in Colorado reportedly has an unusual problem — meth.

USA Today reported that this is the second time in a month that a Colorado public library was shut down because of apparent methamphetamine contamination.

Englewood Public Library, located in the City of Englewood, about 7 miles south of downtown Denver, received test results last week showing that the restroom was contaminated with meth, according to City spokesperson Chris Harguth.

Countertops throughout the library likewise had high concentrations of the illicit substance, forcing the library to temporarily close so a deep cleaning can be carried out.

Some necessary decontamination work includes removing tainted surfaces, ductwork, and exhaust fan equipment.

Meth contaminants can irritate the eyes and cause an itchy throat and runny nose, Harguth said. However, second-hand exposure to the drug is not known to cause any actual long-term harm.

Christina Underhill, the library’s director, said it is not common for people to use illicit substances in the library. However, more people have been sheltering there due to the cold weather, she said, including homeless people and vagrants.

“The use of the library has changed,” Underhill said. “More people are coming to use it as a shelter area.”

The library recently hired security guards to discourage drug use in the library after people said they no longer felt safe there. It also developed a code of conduct.

“We’re very accommodating, [but] there are some individuals who abuse this space and unfortunately put us in this position,” said Underhill.

The decision to test Englewood’s library for meth contamination came after a library in nearby Boulder also tested positive for meth.

Boulder has since reopened the library; the bathrooms, however, remain closed while crews work on cleaning them, which includes decontaminating and replacing vents and fans, according to City spokesperson Annie Elliot.

Moving forward, the Englewood library plans on locking the bathrooms and requiring a key — obtainable from either staff or security — for anyone who needs to use them.

“Libraries are not just a place to check out books and do research anymore,” Marie Hotta, board chair of the Englewood Public Library, said. “I am on the side of helping people. That said, families need to feel safe.”

For now, the issue of meth contamination seems to be limited to Colorado.

The American Library Association released a statement on Monday, stating, “We are unaware of this issue occurring anywhere else in the country, currently or in recent years.”

Homelessness and vagrancy are also serious problems in Dallas, where millions of dollars of taxpayer money have been spent on the Office of Homeless Solutions, which has produced few tangible results and put into question officials’ ability to manage the city.

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