Staff and customers at the Elma Turner Library have been subjected to 'harassment and threatening behaviour'. Photo: File.

Security at library after threats

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A spate of threatening behaviour at Elma Turner Library has prompted Nelson City Council to station a security guard on site.

The council recently revealed that in a 16-day period in July, staff and customers at the library were subjected to harassment and threatening behaviour, with the majority of the incidents appearing to be alcohol and or drug-related.

Between July 8 and July 23, 14 separate incidents were reported, along with various violations of trespass and general intoxication.

Police and ambulance were required at a number of the incidents with three people trespassed.

On July 9, the council decided to hire a security guard for 30 hours per week after noticing what was happening at the library.

Councillor Paul Matheson told a recent council meeting that he has witnessed the disturbances on two occasions when he has been at the Elma Turner Library working as a Justice of the Peace.

“It seems to be centred around the WiFi area, where the disturbances happen.”

He says he feels for staff at the library.

“Frankly, having to keep a beady eye on the happenings down there, it is an issue and quite rightly it’s been raised.”

Council health and safety adviser, Malcolm Hughes, told an Audit Risk and Finance subcommittee meeting last week that the security incidents did take time to settle down, which was expected by police and security staff.

There has only been one reported incident since the security guard took up their post at the library.

The rate of occurrence of security incidents looked to be improving across all Nelson libraries during the quarter from April to June, after an increase was reported in February.

During the first six months of the year, 32 security incidents were reported across Elma Turner, Stoke and Nellie Nightingale libraries.

Nelson City Council group manager community services Roger Ball says the security guard stationed at Elma Turner Library will continue to be employed until mid- September.

“Council is looking to recruit a fixed-term security customer relations role to be shared across council services for a six-month trial period and will re-assess the need after that period.”

Chair of community services Gaile Noonan says she’s happy with what council staff are doing to prevent future incidents.

“I thought to myself ‘why is this happening at the libraries’? But it’s a community space, it’s a living room for the public and obviously that’s a gathering area and these types of things are going to happen, unfortunately,” says Gaile.

“It’s important we look after our people. That’s the biggest priority.”

Nelson City Council is planning an external security review of all libraries for later this year.