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Martin Memorial Library in York closes public restrooms amidst drug use concerns

YORK, Pa. -- The opioid epidemic isn't just limited to city streets. Narcotics experts say it has hit convenience stores, gas stations, and in York, a public library.

Martin Memorial Library has closed its primary, single-use restrooms from the public. The library did so because of plumbing issues and because employees say they've found needles in bathroom trash cans and other drug paraphernalia in the ceilings.

A 'no public restroom' sign on the entrance to Martin Library tells a greater story.

"We found things in the dropped ceilings, and we found needles in the commodes and trash cans," said Mina Edmondson, the director of Martin Memorial Library.

People potentially abusing drugs inside the library's primary restrooms. To keep members and staff safe, the library closed both of them.

"We did not want to put the public in any kind of detriment with our restrooms, and since we knew that something was occurring there, we'd be liable if something if happened inside those restrooms," she added.

Plumbing issues also had a part to play.

"There is a staff restroom on the second floor that we are making available for people with disabilities if they ask," explained Edmondson.

However, that restroom is locked so staff members must escort a person and unlock the door. The children's restroom is also available for use, upon request for a key.

"This is a decision we had to make for the good of the people in our community and the users of our library," she said.

Drug use is not limited to any one single space, according to Dr. Matt Howie, Director of the York Opiod Collaborative.

"We see it in public restrooms or restrooms that are in public establishments like fast food restaurants. Sometimes, convenience stores like your Rutters and Sheetz and the like. It's not a unique York phenomenon. It's a phenomenon occurring around the country," he said.

Edmonson has a message for library goers: "We're still here. We're still welcoming. The issue is not our library is run over by people using drugs. As a safety concern, we closed our bathrooms to keep that from being an issue," she said.

As for when the restrooms will reopen, library officials say not for a long time. The library plans to renovate the restrooms, making them multi stall.