Tacoma library branch temporarily stops in-building services, citing ‘criminal activity’

TACOMA, Wash. — Tacoma Public Library announced it will temporarily stop in-building services at its Mottet branch on Tacoma’s Eastside until March, citing safety concerns and “suspected criminal activity.”

Library director Kate Larsen said in recent weeks staff members have been intimidated and in some cases followed home by people she believes are using the facility to distribute drugs. Larsen said three staff members have been followed home on foot, on public transportation and, in one case, by car.

Tacoma Police Department spokesperson Wendy Haddow said police don’t have evidence of drug dealing at the library but that community liaison officers and the sector lieutenants are working with the library to come up with strategies to address the issues.

Larsen said the library branch called police twice in the last week because the people causing issues were back on the property, but officers haven’t been able to offer much help.

“I’m scared. Staff are scared,” Larsen said.

During the suspension of in-building services, Mottet Library at 3523 E. G St. will offer curbside services during its regular hours. The services include checking out materials, library card sign-ups and renewals as well as program kits, which are offered first come, first served. The curbside services do not include access to the computer lab, printing or photocopying. Restroom access will also not be offered.

Larsen said she first became aware of the issue after evidence of drug dealing was found in the library’s restrooms. Staff removed anything that could be used for a hiding spot, and then the activity moved to the public area of the library.

The last day of in-building services at the library was Friday, Dec. 3. Larsen said that since the doors closed, the people who have been intimidating staff members have been seen coming onto the property and staring through windows.

“We’re in this really awful spot where we need to stand up for ourselves, but our staff is also actively being intimidated, and I don’t want to put them in a situation of further intimidation,” Larsen said.

Larsen said she hopes the March reopening date will allow enough time for the suspected criminal activity to move on from the library branch.