Bolton’s libraries have increasingly been banning users, data released under the Freedom of Information Act has shown.

A total of 34 bans have been issued since 2020 for reasons including indecent exposure, aggressive behaviour, drinking alcohol, racist abuse, vandalism, and swearing.

As of April this year, four library bans had already been issued – the same number that were issued in the entirety of 2022 and 2020. Should it continue at that rate, more than 13 bans could be issued in 2024.

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In 2023, 16 bans were issued – four times higher than the previous year, with seven of these bans mentioning abusive behaviour.

Ban lengths range from as short as the Christmas period in the case of two incidents of anti-social behaviour at Little Lever library, to as long as a permanent ban in the case of an inappropriate use of PCs at Bolton’s Central Library in 2022.

This year, bans have been issued at Horwich library, Central Library, and Little Lever – all of which have been year-long bans due to inappropriate or abusive behaviour towards staff.

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Since 2020, 24 bans, or 70 per cent, have been issued at Central Library, with around a quarter, or eight bans, at Little Lever. Horwich and Breightmet Library both have one ban each in the last four years.

The most common months for a ban to be issued were February and November, with each month having eight bans in the last four years.

The number of bans was far higher than in neighbouring Bury. In Bury, just four people have been banned since 2021 – the same number that has already been banned this year so far in Bolton.

In Oldham, 13 people have been banned since 2021, with four this year so far.

A spokesperson for Bolton Council said: “We want our libraries to be a welcoming and safe space for everyone, visitors and staff.

“Unfortunately, on occasion, there are incidents of anti-social behaviour.

“As a result, individuals may be banned from our library buildings for varying lengths of time, depending on the nature of the incident.”

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