Category Archives: Library update
The bookshelves are gone – Brent Council has started work on the temporary classrooms that will live inside Preston Library for the next year or two. But the community library will be back, and on a sunny Friday and Saturday, we notched up loads more members.
An open letter to the powers that be from the trustees of Mark Twain House, Connecticut (US):
Dear Secretary Hunt, Minister Vaizey and Brent Council Members,
I would like to grab a moment of your time and some brief attention as you hurriedly prepare for the arrival of the Olympians this Summer. Stateside, we are all very excited to see how you celebrate this monumental event!
There is great anticipation for the Olympics as it is a wonderful opportunity for the world to come together in the spirit of competition and excellence.It is, of course, also an opportunity for you to showcase the assets of your great city.
One of the assets of any city, any culture or any society great is its repository of knowledge. Mark Twain, the man we honor here at his home in Hartford, CT, USA, knew this when he said:
“A public library is the most enduring of memorials, the trustiest monument for the preservation of an event or a name or an affection; for it, and it only, is respected by wars and revolutions, and survives them.”
The one thing Twain might not have anticipated a library having to survive is our current economy. Another of his wonderful quotes:
“The lack of money is the root of all evil.”
New hope for Preston Library campaigners following meeting with Brent Council leader – Kilburn Times
This week, many Brent residents recieved an email that began like this:
Dear Library Member,
We haven’t seen you for a while! Did you know that when you borrow books you can earn rewards through our loyalty card scheme?
Here’s a few reasons why it might be worth visiting us again soon.
With a massive drop in library users, Brent Council are begging for people to return. Supermarket-style loyalty cards and free DVD giveaways are being used to try to tempt people back. Indeed, the Library Transformation Project is looking very much like the Library Destruction Project.
Here’s a couple of responses Brent have been receiving:
I cannot believe you had the gall to send me this.
The main reason you haven’t seen me for a while is because YOU CLOSED MY LOCAL LIBRARY.
Did you forget that you have taken away easy access to libraries from thousands of Brent residents?
My family will start using the Brent Library service as soon as you reopen Preston Road Library which is walking distance away for us
Please can you confirm when this will be as my daugthers are keen to use their local library on Preston Road as soon as possible
Want to have your say? Email firstname.lastname@example.org now.
It’s been a difficult few weeks for Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Mr Jay asks whether Mr Hunt feels comfortable with the series of texts between himself and James Murdoch. Mr Hunt says his interpretation was that in his quasi-judicial role a “courteous reply to a text message was fine”.
So Murdoch’s acolytes get immediate replies to messages out of courtesy, while tens of thousands of library campaigners are ignored. Hmm.
His department ignored us for a year, then rushed a meeting in April 2012. Meanwhile they have been in close contact with Brent for 10 months.
Despite all our evidence, we are still being ignored. Read on (it’s worth it):
Brent Labour have long insisted, bizarrely, that halving the number of libraries would somehow double their use. Now we have evidence that this is not true, thanks to Phil Bromberg’s timely Freedom of Information request.
The number of visits to the borough’s libraries have plummeted by thousands since Brent Council axed half of its branches.
Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request reveal that in the five months after the libraries closed, there were nearly 104,000 fewer visits compared with the previous year.
In the same period, 129,449 fewer books were issued.
Library campaigner Philip Bromberg, 52, of Grendon Gardens, Wembley, who submitted the FOI, said: “The figures speak for themselves.
“When you look at the bigger picture, the true scale of the catastrophe becomes apparent. In February 2012 the number of both visits and issues fell more than 20 per cent compared with the year before.
“These figures are really important because it leads to the question – is Brent Council legally providing a comprehensive and efficient library service?”
The council announced plans to close six out of Brent’s 12 libraries to save £1million in 2010. Despite 82 per cent of respondents to consultation saying they were against the closures, the council closed Barham Park, Cricklewood, Kensal Rise, Neasden, Preston and Tokyngton.
Yesterday, contractors pulled down the Brent ‘Wall of Shame’ hiding Preston Library. This follows a sneaky move to empty it of books and equipment last week, before any injunction to stop it could be issued.
The Wall, with its popular support from local artists and schoolchildren, has become a major embarrassment to the Council over the last few weeks and they have finally decided that perhaps it was not such a good idea after all
It would be interesting to learn exactly how much this futile exercise of paying contractors to erect the Wall – and then take it down again – has actually cost Council Tax payers.
Unfortunately for Brent Council, the Wall is unlikely to be forgotten – we have photos galore.
Police side with council as it empties the library.Brent takes advantage of the holiday shutdown to pre-empt any intervention from the Supreme Court, where an appeal was lodged two weeks ago.
Campaigners expect the council to rush through the sale of the library in the coming months, depriving the area of its last local service.
Since October 13 2011, Brent has had 6 libraries. We were all promised a better service.
Implemented for 8 weeks, planned for over a year, this is what the new, improved, ’21st century’ Brent library service looks like:
A letter from a local person to Kingsbury Library Plus:
Dear Ms —- ,
Thank you for your e-letter in response to the comments I made about Preston Library. I have just returned from holiday to find the library completely boarded up following the High Court’s decision.
I have books in my possession and I cannot get to the Town Hall or Kingsbury Libraries so easily. The Town Hall library is a 48 minute return walk. This figure does not include time in the library. I could use a bus which will cost me £2.60 return on an Oyster Card. I also have a back problem which limits the amount I can carry. The same journey time, carriage problems and transport costs apply to Kingsbury Plus Library.
Now that we are Preston Library Minus, can you please advise me about returning my books and how your closures have improved the library service for me.
Read the rest of this entry
Ann John remains silent over her clearly false claim we all live near a library. That was before, Ann, not now.
It gets worse, having privately apologised to Cllr. Lorber after he challenged the claim, anonymous spokespeople are now telling us that we do live near a library, even if it belongs to Harrow!
The Brent Council spokeswoman said it was “nonsense” that the council has been misleading anyone.
She said: “It is true that everyone living in the borough is no more than a mile and a half from a library, either in Brent or a neighbouring borough, and many residents choose to use a library in another borough. This was clearly explained in the proposals.’’
Brent has a legal responsibility to provide a library service for people who live and work in borough. Closing down libraries, and then telling us to go elsewhere is unacceptable and unlawful.
The people who thought it would be easy to deprive us of our last remaining service, who thought we don’t care enough, never expected their Wall of Shame would be transformed into our community message board, telling Ann John that we want our library back.
It’s half term, the weather was very nice today and we plan to stay put, collecting letters and signatures to demand the government intervenes – they will only do this if we bury them in letters and petitions. We are running a rota, so if you fancy volunteering an hour of your time this week, please let us know. There is food, chairs and plenty of friendly people to meet. It’s actually really good fun!
The Guardian (among others) writes:
A judge has fast-tracked an urgent hearing of an appeal against Brent council’s closure of six libraries.
Lord Justice Elias granted an appeal against a ruling made last week in the high court that Brent council’s decision was lawful. He ordered that attempts should be made for it to be heard before the court of appeal on two days early next month.
Brent council has agreed, in the meantime, to take no irrevocable steps to prevent the libraries reopening in the event of the appeal being won.
Campaigners have mounted vigils outside two of the threatened libraries, Preston Road, which has already been boarded up by the council, and Kensal Rise, to ensure they are not emptied of books or computers while the legal dispute continues.
The valiant campaigners who have braved the cold outside Preston night and day since Monday can breathe a small sigh of relief. You have made national news and we salute you.
The day the council came to cart away our books, a plucky band of Preston-ers were there to stop them…including:
Geraldine Cooke, a publisher just back from the Frankfurt Book Fair, stood close by, honking defiantly on a red horn
given to her in Germany by a US erotica publisher in a gesture of intellectual solidarity. Every now and then, her honks were answered by passing cars.
Cooke, who, along with her fellow campaigners, has been organising petitions and raising £30,000 for a legal fighting fund, said she had no plans to give up the battle. “I think we’ll do it for as long as it takes, even though we’re not many people down here,” she said, nodding at the seven other protesters. “There’s no doubting the passion of the people here.”
Volunteers urgently needed to keep an eye on the library – spare half an hour and keep watch through the day.
This morning valiant Preston locals stopped Brent Council removing books and equipment from the library – a step which could be considered irrevocable ahead of a planned appeal to be lodged this week. In other words, we need to stop anything else happening to our library, or it may be impossible to reverse even if we win an appeal.
…and we vowed to avenge our library. We must stop the council from removing books and furniture from OUR library.
At time of writing, Kensal Rise library remains ‘open’ as children and adults heroically prevented the council from boarding it up. It has been a 24 hour vigil. For LIVE updates click here.
Meanwhile, dozens Preston library users were aghast to find a huge wall as they came to…er… use the library after school. Clearly the council had prepared the closure in advance of the verdict.
Today we got our verdict on Round 1 of Brent residents v the Labour Council. Mr Justice Ousley today dismissed a judicial review brought by campaigners seeking to overturn Brent Council’s decision to close half of its public libraries.
The solicitor, John Halford of Bindmans LLP said:
“Today’s judgement means that half of Brent’s libraries remain under threat and has very troubling implications for library closure decisions nationally. That is why Ms Bailey, Ms Desoysa and Mr Lester will be pursing an appeal and the local campaign will renew its efforts to expose the senselessness of Brent’s decision. It cannot be right to decimate the library service of an inner London borough whose children are desperate to read and study but whose parents cannot afford books nor the transport costs of regular access to distant libraries. Nor is Brent right to say the threatened libraries are unnecessary to meet local needs. The passion and commitment of the community campaign to keep them open shows that is nonsense.” (full press release here)
We are not just a bunch of NIMBYs trying to save a defunct service, this is the biggest campaign Brent has seen in half a century – 10,000 + signatures, 82% opposition to the closure plan, including almost every school in the borough. We use our libraries, we value them, and we need them. Brent Council can easily afford to keep them open, and their loss means a decimated, two-tier library service that will fail residents.
Margaret Bailey, on behalf of Brent Libraries SOS campaign said:
As Brent Council slashes library services in half, telling people to “buy books in Tesco” and “get on a bus”, little do residents realise that of the 6 remaining libraries, only 3 are ‘fit for purpose’. Kilburn “needs major upgrade”, Willesden Green is set to be knocked down and rebuilt and funding is being sought for Kingsbury to be rebuilt/enlarged. That leaves just 3 usable libraries in Brent Council’s vision of a “21st century library service”.
Preston users have been told to go to Kingsbury, but this is clearly not big enough. So where will they go? The new £ 3 million mega-library our cash-strapped council found money for. How convenient. At least for the council. It’s too far for children, the elderly and disabled (who most use the existing library) , there’s no parking and rising public trasport fares make this ‘free’ service, not so free.
The verdict on our landmark Judicial Review could come this week, or we may have to wait longer.
Sign up to the email list and you will get the very latest – when we know it, you’ll know it. Until we are assured the library will stay open and continue to do what it has done so well for decades, we will keep going. We still need your help to lobby and raise money – but we’re making it as easy and fun as possible….
Monday evening will see the Council Executive, the lovely bunch who unanimously voted to close our library, decide whether to sell the Preston Library building (and Tokyngton) or not.
7pm Brent Town Hall – committee rooms 1,2 and 3.
Please come and show your opposition to the short-sighted sale of our last public building. Once it is gone, it is gone.