Public librarians have long wanted to be all things to all people, but emergency medical first responder may be going too far. In recent news, a couple of libraries are already training staff or are considering training staff to use naloxone on people who overdose on heroin.
In Denver, six people have overdosed on heroin at the main library this year, so it makes some sense they’re now stocking naloxone and teaching staff how to use it, but it seems a reach.
As one librarian said, “Definitely, over the last few years, my job has changed quite a bit…. This isn’t the kind of thing back in 1993 that we were being taught in graduate school.”
This raises a question, if it’s something that hasn’t and never should be taught in library school, then is it something librarians should be held responsible for?
According to the article, the “library also employs social workers.” Why do they employ social workers? Because librarians aren’t prepared to deal with the sorts of problems that social workers are. Librarians deal in information; social workers in whatever it is social workers do.
The same thing could be said about dealing with overdoses and administering drugs to people. Turning librarians and staff into first responders could be a big mistake. For example, what if the librarian thought it was a heroin overdose, but it was actually a fentanyl overdose? Would they know the difference?
It matters, because according to the CDC, “While NPF-related overdoses can be reversed with naloxone, a higher dose or multiple number of doses per overdose event may be required to revive a patient due to the high potency of NPF.”
NPF is “non-pharmaceutical fentanyl” for those in the know, which didn’t include this librarian. Hopefully the library staff is trained to just keep administering naloxone ever couple of minutes until the symptoms reverse. It’s apparently impossible to overdose on naloxone. It’s only money that could go towards library services, but saving lives is more important than anything the library does.
If the librarian didn’t administer enough naloxone to prevent a fentanyl overdose, would they bear any responsibility for the death, or at least for not saving the life?
The easy answer is no, but if they answer is no, the librarian isn’t responsible for the death, then librarians in general aren’t responsible for heroin overdoses. I certainly wouldn’t want it on my conscience if I tried and failed to reverse an overdose in the library.
On the other hand, what a bloody mess we’re in with opioid overdoses these days.
The CDC article had a map showing the number of fentanyl seizures in the last half of 2014 alone, and the midwest and northeast is being walloped, and that’s just fentanyl and just 6 months.
In addition to the six people have overdosed on heroin at the Central branch of the Denver Public Library this year, and they’ve “administered four doses of it” since getting the drug in late February. Clearly, the problem is real.
But it’s also part of the slippery slope. Right now it’s opioids, and library staff are supposed to be first responders to overdoses, presumably alongside calling 911.
Why stop here? Why not get rid of the security guards? Can’t library staff be trained in verbal de-escalation and combat tactics? In addition so the naloxone, can’t they carry mace and tasers?
Okay, maybe that’s too far down the slippery slope. Given how frustrated and passive-aggressive so many librarians are, the last thing we want is for them to be armed with tasers. That’s a recipe for disaster.
But it’s still bad when librarians get away from the provision of information services to the provision of all services. Why not open needle exchanges inside the library? Or drug treatment centers?
Is the goal just to make sure that people don’t die of overdoses in the library? Or is to help them before they overdose? Or is that the social worker’s job? It’s hard to tell anymore.