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After janitor gets pricked by used needle, Seattle Public Libraries to install public sharps containers

SEATTLE - It’s anyone’s worst nightmare, you accidentally get pricked by a used needle.

That’s what happened to one employee at a Seattle library.

It’s a sign of the times with the region’s opioid and heroin epidemic.

Recently, a janitor cleaning out a restroom trash at the Ballard library was pricked by a needle.

“As a mom, I feel scared for the safety of my child and safety of our community,” Seattle resident Stephanie Ofarrell said.

Seattle Public Libraries says the employee did not contract a disease and is doing OK.

But they did confirm they are finding more needles both outside and inside some of their libraries.

All libraries already have signs posted warning patrons that drug and alcohol use is not allowed on premises.

“It’s changing times, it's different than it used to be,” Ofarrell said.

Over the past couple of months, the staff at the Ballard branch has found at least six used needles, mostly in the bathrooms.

“Schools are teaching kids not to pick it up when they see it. It’s definitely shocking for me. As a kid, I grew up in a suburban area. I am really happy they are teaching our kids,” Seattle resident Jen Mullen said.

And now Seattle libraries are reacting with a pilot program.

They will place public sharp containers in some of their bathrooms. Very few library systems provide public sharp containers but Seattle’s system says it’s worth a try.

Branches at UW, Capitol Hill, Central library downtown and the Ballard branch will get the disposable bins for now. If the program is successful, the idea could be expanded.

“It’s a complex issue and if it’s a measure we can take now and it even helps a small way, I am for it,” Ofarrell said.

The problem isn’t just happening at libraries -- it’s citywide. That’s why Seattle Public Utilities is trying something new.

They’ve installed mailbox-sized bins at six locations to collect needles.

The sites include several parks, including Fremont Canal Park, Freeway Park, Mineral Springs Park and Roxhill Park.

“It’s in the same vein as putting those disposable boxes in the restrooms  -- to have them is better than not having them,” Seattle resident Qadree Tremble said.