THE COMMUNITY ARGUMENT FOR PRESTON LIBRARY
Brent Council has said that their reason for closing half the borough’s libraries is not only to make savings but also because senior officers have recommended that moving resources away from community libraries is a “better offer” to Brent Residents.
A range of options for making financial savings, eg cutting hours, reducing central administration costs, has already been offered by our campaign. This paper addresses the second objective – removing the ‘local’ from the public library service. The “better offer” to Brent Residents is a concentration of services in 2 library hubs, offering wider services and open longer hours, rather than local, community-based public libraries.
People living around Preston Road want to keep their local public library.. and here’s why…
- Over 200 people attended a successful public meeting on February 16
- Petition with 6000 signatures handed to Brent Council on March 28
- Local shops, businesses and services have been very supportive of the campaign to keep the library, putting up posters and collecting signatures. The presence of the library contributes to the feel of a thriving and sustainable community around the Preston Road commercial centre
- 1-2-1 conversations in the street while collecting signatures have really underlined the value that local residents place on the existence of the library in this area.
Arguments against keeping Preston Library are based on its location, building and usage.
The Preston Library is well located on a busy shopping street and on a key traffic route through the north of the borough. In addition
- It has good transport links, close to Preston Road tube station and on 3 bus routes.
- It is close to 2 supermarkets and a range of other retail outlets, restaurants and pubs
- It is close to various other services such as the Post Office, doctors, dentists, etc
It has its own free car park and there are further pay & display parking areas near the station. Parking is generally much easier than near other libraries, eg Kingsbury, Ealing Road .
Closure would leave a very large residential area in the north of the borough without a library. The area has a changing demographic …“New pockets of deprivation have appeared in the north of the Borough in historically affluent areas of Preston , Kenton and Queensbury have all become more deprived.” Preston also includes an area of very high IMD level . Unfortunately, much of the Equality Impact Assessment  undertaken as part of the library closure plan is based on 2001 Census figures and cannot take account of the changing nature of Preston Ward.
Although Council documents state that the building is in need of refurbishment, this is not immediately obvious and the forecast of costs is over a very long period – 20 years. In addition
- Access is good – direct access at street level and entire library is in single storey. Compares well with eg Town Hall library – see Disability Go website 
- Light – natural light, South-facing and a pleasant environment
- New internal fittings when IT access upgraded
Brent Council documents claim that Preston Library has low usage
- has the HIGHEST Issues per visit of any library
- has the HIGHEST ratio of books issued to stock
- is the SECOND most cost-effective by cost per issue
- is the FOURTH most efficient by cost per visit
- is ranked FIFTH in issues
According to the Brent Council Draft Library Strategy 2008-2012: Appendix A, approved Jan 2008, Preston Library has the SECOND HIGHEST percentage of both young and old users and the SECOND HIGHEST percentage of users with a disability.
The library is a vital resource for many groups within its community, eg
- Community groups – mothers & toddlers / knitting group/ Under-5s story-time
- Schoolchildren – homework research/ Chatterbooks Extreme reading group for 11-14 year olds/ Reading Challenge and other summer schemes/ space for tutoring/ Reading Support for Year 1-2 led by volunteers. [More on schools below]. The local nature of the library encourages young people to use the library – and to create a library use habit that will continue into adulthood.
- Adult education support – notably with BACES
- English language study – large number of number of local families where English is not the first language have a strong need for easy access to books
- The range of controlled-price non-book services available in the library – eg computer-access, dvd loan, photocopying – in strong demand among low-income groups
- Local residents with mobility or sight problems have a particular need for a local library with easy access and a good collection of large-print books
- Currently, there is high use by elderly residents and parents with under school age children. It is unlikely that they will want or be able to travel the long distance to another library.
Children in Preston Ward attend a wide range of local schools including those below who have ALL given support the campaign to keep Preston Library open:
Preston Park Primary School
|Claremont High School|
|Barham School||Preston Manor|
|St Christophers||St Gregory’s|
|Oliver Goldsmith||Byron Court|
|The Gower School||Buxlow|
Of these Preston Park Primary School has been most involved. The school has no real library of its own and therefore has a close relationship with the public library. The school encourages individuals to register as library members and class group visits, including Early Years, are organised on a weekly basis. Unfortunately these are registered as only one visit per group on the footfall statistics provided in the Council documents issued during the Libraries Transformation Project consultation as, at that time, the library had a gate counter which was often held open for large groups. The Library is easily reached on foot from the school, but it will be prohibitively expensive to provide transport to take the children to Kingsbury or the Town Hall. Children at the School have written some 400 letters to the Council asking for the library not to be closed.
All the local schools are expanding, providing a potentially wider user group and demand on library services in the area. Preston Manor High School , which is located in the same road as the Preston Library, is currently building a new primary school with a 2 form entry of 60 extra students each year starting September 2011.
WE WANT A LOCAL LIBRARY …AND NOT DISTANT “INFORMATION HUBS”
Sue Mckenzie, Head of Libraries, Arts and Heritage, appears to be ignoring the advice and recommendations of CILIP, the professional association for librarians. Their guidelines ‘What makes a good library service’ state:
A good library service will deliver against key policy objectives and provide:
- A positive future for children and young people
- A fulfilling life for older people
- Strong, safe and sustainable communities
- Promotion of local identity and community pride
- Learning, skills and workforce development
- Health improvements and wellbeing
- Equality, community cohesion and social justice
- Economic regeneration
Closing Preston Library will negatively affect the opportunities of young people and the quality of life for older people. The loss of one of the last community spaces in the Preston area which is open to ALL will irreparably damage the existing community cohesion which we will need to fight to maintain in the hard economic times ahead.
PRESTON LIBRARY CAMPAIGN
8 April 2011
Part 1, Brent’s Borough Profile, Updated January 2011 at http://www.brent.gov.uk/evidencebase.nsf/Files/LBBA-105/$FILE/borough_profile_part_one.pdf p.8. Priority Neighbourhood Files doc at http://www.brent.gov.uk/evidencebase.nsf/Files/LBBA-100/$FILE/Priority%20neighbourhood%20profile.pdf map showing IMD 2007.
 Indices of Multiple Deprivation identify the most deprived areas across the country. They combine a number of indicators, chosen to cover a range of economic, social and housing issues, into a single deprivation score for each small area in England