Canadian library writes letter to patrons with foul body odor

NEWMARKET, Ontario, April 15 (UPI) — A Canadian library looked to handle complaints about patrons’ foul body odor by drafting a letter that directed them to local public showers and laundry facilities.

Newmarket Public Library wrote the letter to gently inform patrons of complaints about a “noticeable odor.”

“We respectfully request that you take steps to control this odour before your future visits to the library,” the letter states. “If you need access to free public showers or laundry facilities, you can access these at Trinity United Church, across the street from the library, during weekdays.”

The letter got negative responses from some observers, including homeless advocate Tom Pearson, who told the newspaper The Star he believes the note discriminates against the homeless and other groups.

“If you ask me, it’s also discriminatory,” he said. “It’s as degrading an experience as I can only imagine one having to go through in a spot they’ve used to socialize and get warm in for many years. A person in a wheelchair may only get access to (a) shower twice a week — would they be cited too?”

Library CEO Todd Kyle defended the library’s right to temporarily ask guests to leave and said he believed the letter offered the most dignified way to inform patrons of the issue.

“This gives us the opportunity to not have to embarrass them, (as well as) preserve their dignity and get our message across without having to put our staff at risk,” he said. “This was an attempt to get that message across in the most dignified way possible. There’s a number of different instances where we might need to comment on a person’s odour.”

He also noted that the letter states patrons who receive the notification are not prohibited from returning to the library and told the CBC that the complaints about odor can also extend to people who wear strong perfume.

“People have suggested that it might not be the most dignified way to get the message across. I haven’t heard that from the specific people involved,” he said.

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