People banned from libraries for urinating on furniture and watching obscene material

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Library bosses have revealed unusual reasons why people have been banned. Stock photo - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Watching obscene content on computers, using recording devices and even urinating on furniture - some of the reasons people have been banned from libraries in Essex.

More than 100 people have been excluded from libraries in the county since 2016 - the most common reason being intimidating and aggressive behaviour.

Details of some of the more unusual reasons for bans have been revealed in a Freedom of Information request and these included one person who is prohibited from Maldon Library for “viewing obscene content” on Valentine’s Day 2017.

Clacton Library banned one person for “accessing inappropriate content” on August 16, 2018, and another person for “using a recording device” on May 14 the same year.

On May 5, 2019, a person was banned from Braintree Library for “urination on furniture”.

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The year with the highest number of bans issued was 2018, when 50 people were banned across all 74 libraries, but overall numbers dropped significantly in 2020 and 2021 to just two bans in each year.

This is most likely because public libraries were closed during the three national lockdowns which occurred in those years.

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A spokesperson for the county council said: “Pre-pandemic, Essex’s library service averaged 4.5million visits per year. Considering this high number of visits, we have very few incidents of poor customer behaviour and the vast majority of people use their libraries appropriately.

“Banning customers from library services is always a very last resort, but is an option available should the circumstances mean it is absolutely necessary in order to protect staff.

“Unreasonable, persistent or abusive customers are managed in line with ECC’s customer behaviour guidelines and the libraries’ banning policy, which is currently being updated.

“Staff are trained to handle difficult situations, supported emotionally, and have access to the Employee Assistance support if required.

“All serious harassment or abusive incidents are also reported to Essex Police directly.”

The county council said 146 people had been banned since 2016.

Colchester Library had banned the most people by far, at 52 bans overall – higher than the total number for all libraries in any one year – followed by Basildon, which has banned 12 people since 2016.

Other reasons given for the bans included “attempted theft”, “intoxication”, “physical violence” and “threatening behaviour”.

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