UNION leaders have backed a decision to put security guards in the Central Library following an alleged assault there earlier this month.
Staff and public have also had to endure drunks slumped in the chairs or over table tops and becoming aggressive when wakened and asked to leave.
The library on George IV Bridge is the first of the city’s 28 public libraries to take such a measure.
It comes after figures last month revealed that 72 people were banned from the libraries for up to a month between April 2012 and March last year.
John Stevenson, president of the Edinburgh branch of the union Unison, which includes local government workers, said safety was paramount but the underlying cause was cuts to social services budgets.
He said: “It is a concern for us if staff and service users are at risk. Local government workers often carry the brunt of antisocial behaviour, though in the past this has mostly been housing and social work staff.
“You only have to look at the number of people begging in Edinburgh to see how little support there is for them.
“Putting security guards in the library is an answer to the symptom, not the problem.
“This is a wider problem for society and we need more investment in social services to help those with issues.”
Incidents across the city’s libraries in recent times have included drunken behaviour, vandalism, alleged racist abuse and fireraising, and the firing of an airgun.
One woman, who did not want to be named, said: “I’ve used the library for over six years and go there for a bit of quiet time and to choose my books. And there are students too, trying to study.
“I’ve noticed an increase in the number of men who come in and sit around, sometimes in groups.
“They look hungover or drunk and get very narked at being asked to leave.
“There can be regular people who might be homeless or lonely who sit about and cause no harm, but things are changing and I don’t see why we should have to put up with threatening behaviour.”
A Police Scotland spokesman said officers attended an incident at Central Library following an allegation of assault.
A 38-year-old man appeared in court over the incident which allegedly took place on a Saturday afternoon.
“Police in Edinburgh were called to a business premises on George IV Bridge at around 2.40pm on March 5. A 38-year-old man was arrested for the assault of a man, also aged 38. He appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on March 7.”
A council spokeswoman said: “In response to an isolated incident at the library recently, security measures have been brought in to reassure staff and customers and to promote a positive use of the facility.”
Central Library, the city’s first public library, opened in 1890 and was funded by a £50,000 donation from Dunfermline-born philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.