Kensington & ChelseaNews

Librarians endure more abuse than any other council staff, says report

By Adrian Zorzut, Local Democracy Reporter

Library workers in Kensington and Chelsea are shouted at and threatened by customers ‘on a daily basis’, a report has found.

Analysis of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request found library employees lodged the most reports citing abuse against them of all council staff between January 2018 and January 2024.

Some 37 per cent of recorded incidents – which range from verbal abuse to harassment, intimidation and discrimination – came from libraries.

The most affected site was Kensington Central Library, Phillimore Walk, which clocked 58 incidents, followed by Chelsea Old Town Hall Library, which sits in King’s Road, with 30 and North Kensington Library and Brompton Library, which came equal third with 26 incidents each.

Aggressive behaviour was the most common form of abuse staff faced across the borough’s libraries, followed closely by verbal abuse and threats.

At least five instances led to staff receiving minor injuries, according to the data. Around a fifth (22 per cent) saw a report made to police.

Library worker Adrian Lewis said most of the abuse came from people with mental health issues, who use the library to keep warm. “That’s the problem. We’re a warm space and we’re asking people to come here if they don’t have a warm house.

“One man got into my face and started shouting and so I asked him to leave and he wouldn’t leave. Luckily my colleague called the police, who were around the corner.”

A council spokesman said: “Unacceptable behaviour towards our staff and service users is not tolerated and support is in place to resolve antisocial behaviour when it arises.”

Pictured top: Kensington Central Library (Picture: Adrian Zorzut)

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