The City Council voted Monday night to give Portland Public Library staff members the power to issue no trespassing orders to problem patrons, despite concerns that those powers would target the poor and minorities.

Currently, library staff must call police when a patron is causing a disturbance.

Library Director Stephen Podgajny said giving constable powers to private security guards hired by the library would be a more efficient way to ensure it is a welcoming and safe place for everyone.

“It allows the deployment of public resources – i.e. the police – in a more efficient way,” Podgajny said. “If our staff had these powers tomorrow, we would not suddenly turn into the enemy of everyone in the city of Portland.”

Some councilors and homeless advocates opposed extending police powers to private security guards hired by a nonprofit organization like the library, because of accountability concerns.

“That’s a line we shouldn’t cross,” said Councilor Jill Duson.

As constables, guards would not have the authority to make arrests; Portland police would review the trespass warnings, which would be subject to an appeal. But anyone who returns to the library after getting a trespass warning could be arrested by police.

Podgajny said the constable powers were not intended to target homeless people, who often enter the building to get warm, to use the bathroom and to use the computers.

“This is not about any one population in the city. It is about treating everyone equally and having an expectation of behavior,” he said.

Homeless advocates, however, argued that homeless people and minorities would become the targets.

Jim Devine, an advocate for Homeless Voices for Justice, said the library is part of the “safety triangle,” which also includes the Preble Street Resource Center and the Oxford Street Shelter.

“Even if this policy change is not intended to target people who are homeless and living in poverty, we feel strongly that in practice it will do just that,” Devine said.

Portland resident Sarah Lazare said the powers constituted an expansion of police powers through “parapolicing,” or private policing. She was concerned that people of color would also be targeted.

“It will be a civil rights nightmare, and where will the accountability be?” Lazare said.

The council first passed the proposal by an 6-2 vote, with Duson and Councilor Kevin Donoghue opposed. However, the vote was taken without public comment, since the council held a public hearing last month and postponed action.

The council agreed to hear public comment after an audience member pointed out that a public hearing was listed on the agenda, and then moved to reconsider its vote.

Councilor David Marshall said the testimony helped him change his mind. The measure passed 5-3.

Councilor Jon Hinck was among the councilors calling for strict oversight of library constables by police officers, councilors and regular citizens.

“It does require an ongoing examination,” Hinck said. “I hope we can do that as a city together.”

In other business, the council voted to reduce parking restrictions in the East End, West End and former Nathan Clifford School neighborhoods.

Daytime restrictions would be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and nighttime restrictions would be from 12:01 a.m. to 7 a.m.

The Department of Public Services estimated it would cost at least $50,000 to replace signs and $35,000 in overtime for program implementation, according to a memo to the council.

The new restrictions will take effect on May 1, 2015.