Labour leader’s plan to save libraries, just not in Brent

Dan Jarvis is the shadow arts minister, he is Labour leader Ed Miliband’s libraries’ man.

This week, he told the Guardian how important libraries are, and how he plans to save them.

The benefit of libraries to communities is harder to measure, but I’ve seen it with my own eyes, in libraries large and small, from Barnsley to Bermondsey.

Does this government see it? Libraries minister Ed Vaizey‘s stock line has been: “I don’t run library services. Local authorities do.” He has a point: libraries are run by democratically elected local governments, and they take the lead. But that’s no excuse for doing nothing. It may not be Vaizey’s job to micro-manage every library in the country – but it is his job to be their champion. And that is what he is failing to do.

Blaming the government for allowing them to close, he is silent on the fact that in Brent, it is his own party that has been fighting for the right to close libraries.

And as Boyd Tonkin pointed out yesterday:

the myopic idiocy of these false economies cuts straight across party lines

As we wait for Jeremy Hunt to get up off his behind and do his job, is their any politician who is willing to walk the walk??

 

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.