Anti-social behaviour in Norfolk's libraries has increased by almost 40pc, with staff offered extra support to help deal with rising abuse from visitors.

The escalation has seen librarians verbally abused and intimidated and equipment smashed up.

Staff are also having to cope with increasing numbers of drunk people in the county's libraries as well as users trying to access "inappropriate material" on the facilities' computers.

It comes at a time when Norfolk's libraries are increasingly being used to offer shelter and support for people, as well as being venues to borrow books from.

And it also follows a series of controversial events hosted by libraries, such as drag queen shows aimed at children and trans art shows, which have attracted protests.

New figures show that 110 incidents of anti-social behaviour were recorded in Norfolk's 47 libraries in the year 2023/24, up from 80 incidents in 2022/23 - an increase of nearly 40pc in the space of a year.

Norfolk County Council runs 47 librariesNorfolk County Council runs 47 libraries (Image: Archant)



Norfolk County Council, which runs the library service, said it was "not able to give a commentary" on why the number of incidents was rising and was not able to link the increase to specific trends.

However, in the wake of Covid and amid the cost of living crisis, people are increasingly turning to libraries to save money and stave off loneliness and isolation.

The council has used its libraries to distribute packages containing hot water bottles and scarves.

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And, as part of the national Warm Welcome campaign, those looking for warm places to save money heating their own homes, were encouraged to head to the county's libraries.Norfolk's libraries have seen a surge in anti-social behaviourNorfolk's libraries have seen a surge in anti-social behaviour (Image: James Bass)



Norfolk's libraries have been the target of protests over controversial "drag queen storytime" events, which critics say are not age-appropriate.

Library drag queen storytime events sparked protestsLibrary drag queen storytime events sparked protests (Image: Supplied)

One planned show - which involves a performer in drag reading to children - was cancelled at North Walsham library in August 2022 after a group of around 15 people turned up to picket it.

Protesters outside North Walsham LibraryProtesters outside North Walsham Library (Image: Archant)

Another event, at Cromer library, was also cancelled, although one did go ahead at the Millennium Library, at the Forum in Norwich, with a protest by critics outside.

The same venue was also the focus of controversy in April this year, over an art exhibition organised by staff and Norwich Trans Pride.

The display featured artwork showing bodies which had undergone gender reassignment surgery, as well as hypodermic needles and testosterone, which is used by people who are transitioning.

Critics said the display was inappropriate for a public library, saying it 'glorified self harm' and promoted surgery and medication among vulnerable young people with gender issues.

Council leader Kay Mason Billig was among those to criticise the exhibition and a sign declaring the library a 'trans friendly safe space' - was taken down by senior officials.

Protesters at the ForumProtesters at the Forum (Image: Steven Whitear)

It sparked another protest outside the library and the poster was later reinstated.

The council says it is not aware of a direct link between such events and the rise in reports of anti-social behaviour.



A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said: "We are committed to supporting all of our staff and take any abuse of our staff very seriously.

"We have clear processes to support our staff when incidents of this sort occur, as well as ensuring that all of our staff have access to wellbeing support and to free, confidential and independent counselling and advice via the Norfolk Support Line.

"Individuals who mistreat our staff can and will be banned from our libraries for a period of time."



Norfolk County Council has the power to ban people from its libraries, while the courts can also enforce bans.

In 2014, an 85-year-old man was banned after a row over seating at the Millennium Library escalated, while, two years later, a person was banned for a year after they were caught selling drugs in a library.

And last month, a man was given a Criminal Behaviour Order which banned him from libraries in Dereham and Gorleston.

Gareth McDermottGareth McDermott (Image: Norfolk Constabulary)

The ban was imposed on Gareth McDermott, 44, of Mousehold Street in Norwich, appeared at Norwich Magistrates’ Court after he admitted eight counts of theft from shops and libraries.

He was also given a four-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months, was told to pay £100 in compensation and ordered to take part in drug rehabilitation.