Airgun-wielding kids among 72 hit with library ban

Antisocial incidents in public libraries included three boys shooting airguns. Picture: Neil Hanna
Antisocial incidents in public libraries included three boys shooting airguns. Picture: Neil Hanna
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THEY are traditionally places of peace and quiet for those seeking a spot of reading or thinking time.

But it seems public libraries in the Capital have a rowdier side, with three boys shooting airguns among scores of residents reported to police or banned for acts of violence.

Setting fire to leaflets, physical assault, racist abuse and riding bikes on library premises all appear in a new list of antisocial behaviour incidents.

In total, around 72 people were told to stay away from libraries for up to a month between April 2012 and March last year.

As young people spend more time in libraries thanks to services such as free internet, professionals said it was unacceptable that staff face threats of assault.

Duncan Wright, librarian at Stewart’s Melville College, said: “I obviously support my colleagues in the public library sector, who should not have to deal with incidents of antisocial behaviour.

“One would like to think that the council has given staff as much support as possible. But I also think these are isolated incidents – I don’t think public libraries are unsafe.”

Vandalism of library property, drunken behaviour and visitors falling asleep and abusing staff when woken are among recurring incidents at around 33 public libraries across the Capital.

Mr Wright said he had every sympathy with his public sector counterparts but warned against viewing the figures as grounds for deterring young people from spending time at libraries.

“Libraries have been evolving and changing for a number of years,” he said. “It’s really important that these young people have somewhere they can go and access the internet, which they may not be able to access at home.

“But if the public library is the only place they can access that then they have to respect and use the services in the way we would expect.”

Leaders at the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS) stressed the city council had a legal obligation to ensure a safe working environment.

Director Catherine Kearney said: “Public libraries are valuable resources where local people get access to and support for information and community learning. Libraries, in common with other public services, occasionally experience anti-social incidents.

“The employers’ legal duty to provide a safe working environment has additional support from CILIPS through its advocacy and support for training for front line library staff and their managers.”

City leaders said the number of reported incidents was small compared to overall levels of library use.

Councillor Richard Lewis, culture leader, said: “Our skilled staff are well trained and the results prove that they manage these times of challenging behaviour to the benefit of all other library 
users.

“In Edinburgh it should be said that our libraries are very popular, safe and well-loved places for visitors.”