More city libraries hit by youths

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MORE city libraries are being targeted by gangs of youths who are abusing and intimidating staff and users, it has been claimed.

The News revealed this week police had been called to Muirhouse Library 19 times in three months to deal with youth disorder.

Now it has emerged that Craigmillar, Moredun and the award-winning Sighthill libraries are all experiencing similar problems. Many of the youngsters are being attracted by free computer and internet access, under the council's Libraries4Youth scheme.

A source within the city's library service said the problem was more widespread than the local authority was willing to recognise.

The man, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "It has been known to all library staff for some considerable time that there are extremely serious problems with antisocial behaviour on the part of groups of youths – not only at Muirhouse but also at Sighthill, Craigmillar and Moredun. This has involved the tolerance of extraordinary levels of verbal and physical abuse between such youths and towards the staff."

However, the council insisted the drive to attract more youngsters into libraries was working well, and was an effective tool in tackling other social problems.

A spokesman added: "There are challenges and where there is inappropriate behaviour we take measures to tackle it, working with community police.

"Sighthill Library has won awards for its approach to young people and there has been a real turnaround in behaviour in the library and surrounding area."

However, one regular user of Moredun Library said the facility has "serious problems". "The children run riot and it is sheer bedlam," said the woman, who asked not to be named. "The staff can do nothing except shout 'stop it' and the children know they have no powers to control them."

Gail Ross, a community activist in Craigmillar, said many people were being put off using the local library.

She said: "There is an internet cafe in the area but most of the youngsters are barred from it, so they just go up to the library."

Keith Bell, secretary of Sighthill, Broomhouse and Parkhead Community Council, said the Sighthill library had turned the corner.

He said: "There have been challenges, but it wouldn't have won an award if it wasn't doing something right."

Sighthill/Gorgie councillor Eric Milligan added: "Libraries are very important to communities and antisocial behaviour in them should not be tolerated."