Award for the library that lent support
IT is the last place you would expect to find teenage yobs.
But a library which was plagued by drunken youngsters has picked up a national award after throwing open its doors to them.
Sighthill Library saw off competition from 130 other projects to win one of four top prizes in the Scottish Executive's Standing Up To Antisocial Behaviour scheme.
Two years ago, the library was plagued by a host of problems, including gang fights, under-age drinking and vandalism, both inside and outside the building.
The library staff were nominated for the award by the police after lifting a ban on youngsters involved in the trouble and instead urging them to use the library's computers and other facilities.
The staff also helped set up a local youth football team, a graffiti arts project and drama group.
Since then, trouble in the area has dropped dramatically.
Andrew McTaggart, one of the library workers involved in the projects for youngsters aged between five and 19, said: "There was basically mayhem in the library a couple of years ago, with large groups coming in and causing disruption, pulling over shelves, and drinking.
"They were getting themselves banned, but we felt that was just not working and it was becoming a real stand-off situation, as the library is a focal point in the area.
"The projects have definitely made a real difference here. There are a lot less problems and the library is now used as a real community centre for these kids."
The library created a dedicated area for youngsters, where they were able to set up their own "Sighthill Computer Crazies" website, learn how to create computer games and compile CVs for the first time.
The project is currently giving local youngsters the chance to produce their own "video diaries" about life in and around Sighthill.
Sergeant Colin Gagen, of the Lothian and Borders Police safer communities unit at Sighthill, said: "The staff at the library found that banning the kids from going in was basically causing them more hassle.
"They have met the kids half way and it has been made clear to them that if they do cause trouble then we will get involved, but generally things have gone very well.
"The library was very important in helping reduce the number of complaints about young people in the area by almost a third in the 12 months from April 2004 to April 2005."
Donald Urquhart, head of the council's antisocial behaviour division, said: "This award reinforces the fact that dealing with antisocial behaviour is about much more than using enforcement powers. Preventing anti- social behaviour before it has a chance to develop is key to solving the problem."
Sighthill Library won the award in the community projects category.
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