WEMBLEY MATTERS: What did for Ann John?

Wembley Matters has a thoughtful piece on the demise of Ann John. Well worth a read:

As the dust settles on the Brent Council leadership changes it is worth reflecting on the reasons behind the ousting of Ann John and what it means for the future.

The libraries issue, both the closures and the redevelopment of the Willesden Green Centre, has been the most contentious aspect of Council policy. The presentation as ‘transformation’ rather than closure; the labelling of opponents as self-interested, unrepresentative and middle class; the ignoring of petitions; the suggestion that cheap books were readily available at Tesco; all riled local citizens and the energetic and resourceful campaigners kept the issue in the local press and crucially on the national media agenda.

Read the rest here:  WEMBLEY MATTERS: What did for Ann John?.

The next stage: challenge the DCMS

Louise Mensch and Tom Watson from Media & Culture Select CommitteeAlthough our legal challenge through the courts has come to an end, it is not over. We are now going to challenge the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt on his department’s failure to investigate library closures for more than a year.

We will do this on two fronts. Today, our legal team has sent a letter demanding action. The DCMS met with Brent Council last year, but has so far ignored thousands of complaints made by us.

And tomorrow, the cross-party Parliamentary Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport is holding its enquiry into national library closures: Tuesday 7 February, 10.30am, Palace of Westminster, Committee Room 15 (it’ll be packed so get there early)

Over 130 submissions were made by all sorts of groups and people. It makes for very interesting reading.

You can find our 3 submissions at pgs 133, 366 and 544 as well as one from Barry Gardiner MP (pg. 583) and the inevitable defence from Brent Council (pg. 608). You can read them all here.

Boyd Tonkin: The branch line to another life

It appears between our Con-Dem government and Labour council, our library has suffered its terrible fate.

Boyd Tonkin of the Independent sums it up:

…the myopic idiocy of these false economies cuts straight across party lines. In spite of ferocious competition, from Cumbria to Dorset, I would argue that no local authority has behaved with quite such pig-headed arrogance in pursuit of the destruction of much-loved branches as Labour Brent.

Which makes it dismaying, if predictable, that the libraries initiative now launched by shadow arts minister Dan Jarvis contents itself with kneejerk Tory-bashing and fails to examine the mess on Labour’s own municipal shelves.

No wonder so many public-spirited people run a mile from party politics when they see that participation will mean having to check in both mind and heart at the committee-room door”

Willesden Green Library – success or failure? Brent can’t decide…

Willesden Green may well be the 7th library to close this year. Brent has long been planning to close it for 2 years to rebuild it. It’s a curious story, made curiouser by Labour councillors falling asleep and losing during an important vote on the issue.

Last year, when trying to justify closing 6 libraries, Willesden Green was cited as the successful  library, against which ours was a failure:

Councillor James Powney (Kensal Green, Labour), said: “Willesden Green is our most successful library

(Harrow Observer)

Ann John reiterated this just a few months ago:

The truth about the closure of the six libraries is that they were the least popular and least visited libraries in the borough…In contrast, the most popular – Willesden Green library centre – had 508,599 visitors.

(The Guardian)

Now the line is:

The council says Willesden Green Library has struggled to fulfil potential and is poorly designed.

(Kilburn Times)

 

So which is it? For Brent, it’s both. For everyone else, it is the latter. WG is a failure. It not only costs more than all 6 libraries put together, it also fails to attract more users than all 6 put together.

And this is after those user figures have been artificially inflated by situating non-library services and staff offices inside the library, and then counting everyone together.

In other words, Willesden Green is much more expensive and far less efficient than Preston, yet it was our library that was closed. Permanently.