SIOUX CITY | People aren't afraid to light a cigarette inside the downtown Sioux City public library, where smoking has been banned for many years.

Library Director Betsy Thompson said some people have engaged in physical fights at the Wilbur Aalfs Library, while others are intoxicated.

"We are often dealing with intoxicated people, and they respond in a somewhat threatening manner," Thompson said.

In February, the City Council approved $46,176 for the city's main branch library so staff can explore adding security.

Council members voted 3-1 to approve the extra funds for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Mayor Bob Scott voted no, saying the library could explore alternatives such as hiring part-time security personnel or other options. Councilman Keith Radig was absent during the meeting.

"I wanted to have (the security), but then all of a sudden it changes into full-time police officers, and that's not the way I wanted to go," Scott said.

Thompson added some troublemakers are homeless people looking for a warm place to stay, but she added that isn't always the case.

"It doesn't matter to us where you slept last night," she said. "We care that you behave in an appropriate manner in a public building."

Thompson said a fist fight occurred between two library patrons in January. This winter, two people were found smoking in the building. Iowa law forbids smoking in public places such as libraries.

Since the library doesn't have dedicated security personnel, Thompson said the building relies on staff to keep people safe.

"Everyone who works at the library has responsibility for making a self-welcoming place," Thompson said.

Scott added he has received comments from people who say Sioux City's downtown library needs security in some form.

"I've had people call me," Scott said. "I've had people that have relatives that work there that say it's a problem."

Thompson acknowledged the library will have to be creative in order to provide adequate security with the extra funds the council approved.

"This isn't enough to have our own full-blown security officer on duty all 61 hours a week we're open," she said.

Thompson said library staff is working to see whether a police officer can make tours through the building periodically during daytime hours. The library at 529 Pierce St., is within a block of the police headquarters.

"When it is truly a threatening incident, we're looking at how quickly we can call in the police department," Thompson said.

Whatever the fix may be, Sioux City law enforcement officials say it likely won't be on-duty police officers or reserve deputies.

Police Chief Doug Young said his department doesn't have extra officers to provide security at the library. He suggested off-duty officers.

"I don't have any manpower to station anybody there specifically," he said.

Young added officers quickly respond to service calls at the library, but response times can be slow at times.

"Whenever we get a call there, we will respond immediately to their request," he said. "Obviously, that could be delayed if an officer is busy in the area."

Scott also said it could be cheaper for the library to hire Woodbury County reserve deputies, rather than police.

Sheriff Dave Drew said it will be difficult to find reserves to work daytime hours at the library because most of them have full-time jobs.

"Most of our reserve deputies work during the day so that becomes a hardship," Drew said. "Nobody really has days off."


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