HACKNEY LIBRARIANS are in fear of physical attacks from students.
Fights have broken out between pupils, pupils hurl racist and profane abuse at men and women and security guards have been threatened with knives.
In the Dalston library staff have also at times noticed a lookout outside one of the spacious dual-gender toilets. The librarians believe teenagers have been having sex within.
Since January this year 13 incidents have been reported at Dalston CLR James Library and five at Hackney Central in Mare Street. The council described the majority as non-violent.
The offenders are a minority among the sixth-formers and other young people, most of whom use the quiet spaces for study. Some flee the premises when violence erupts.
Staff have complained formally to senior managers, who are reporting all incidents, including those rated as minor, to the council’s health-and-safety office.
One response has been a strengthening of security. Hackney Central now has three guards, up from one, at the busiest times and Dalston three, where previously there were two.
Other measures include:
* training for security men and library staff to help them to defuse disruptive situations;
* asking school-uniformed visitors to show school identification or library membership between 3.30pm and 6pm on weekdays;
* banning anyone who fights, threatens or verbally abuses staff or other library users, or who refuses to leave when asked;
* boosting closed-circuit TV coverage;
* arranging library visits by teachers from nearby schools to identify troublesome students;
* asking schools to remind pupils how to behave;
* working with youth organisations to offer areas where pupils can socialise after school;
* working with police and community safety wardens to end violent incidents or threats quickly and safely.
Social-care councillor Jonathan McShane commented: “Our libraries are very busy in the afternoons and evenings as students revise for exams.
“We would expect a bit of rowdiness from time to time with so many young people in one place but recently the behaviour of a small minority of students has been totally unacceptable.
“We take the safety of our staff and our library users extremely seriously and have already taken steps to deal with this unacceptable behaviour.
“We will not allow the bad behaviour of a small minority to spoil the experience for everyone else.”
A staffer elsewhere in the adjacent museum in Mare Street said teenagers entering the premises in groups were told as soon as they entered that disturbances would not be tolerated. A few quick expulsions invariably prevented matters getting out of control.
Hackney police were unavailable to comment.
David Altheer 230616
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