One year on, Brent SOS Libraries campaign marked the closure of our libraries with a torch relay between all 7 libraries, stopping at Barham Community Library, before winding its way to the newly inaugurated Preston Community Library where a marathon read of Alice in Wonderland was held. A vigil was held at Preston Library itself before we moved onto a party at the Windermere. Phew!
A year since our libraries were closed, Brent SOS Libraries will be running it’s own Light of Learning torch relay through each site, linking each and renewing our commitment to reopening all of them.
At 5pm it’ll arrive at Preston Library, where we will have guest readings, before a good old knees up at The Windermere at 6pm. Expect great music, raffles and free buffet! (Map + itinerary below)
But the fun will begin earlier at 2pm, when Preston Community Library will reopen at 235 Preston Road with a marathon reading of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. So come along!
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.”
Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451 – the temperature at which books combust – died this week aged 91.
We shall miss him.
Hat tip: the fair Geraldine.
The financial mismanagement of Brent Council continues unabated. The cost of refurbishing Kilburn library has gone up from £117,000 to £650,000 – an extra £half million has been found to upgrade one of the least-used libraries in Brent.
The original figure formed part of the Library Transformation Plan that new leader Mo Butt is determined to see through. That figure was therefore approved by the executive when they voted for closure last year.
In just 18 months, the figure has increased five-fold. No justification for the increase has been put forward by Brent Council.
BRENT COUNCIL CONCEALS DEVASTATING EFFECTS OF LIBRARY CLOSURES
Brent SOS Libraries today reveals the true extent of the damage caused by the library closures in the London borough of Brent.
On Monday night, a “progress” report presented misleading and incorrect information on the so-called “Libraries Transformation Project” to the new Labour executive. Brent SOS Libraries responded with its May 2012 Brent SOS Libraries Report, which shows:
- There have been 167,004 fewer library visits since half of the borough’s libraries were closed in October compared with the same period year on year.
- 158,809 fewer books have been issued.
- Library visits and lending have fallen 20% will continue to fall with the imminent closure of Kilburn and demolition of Willesden Green libraries.
- This has been a net loss of 191 opening hours per week.
Most of the users of the closed libraries ARE NOT USING the remaining libraries, as the council claims. The report that went before the council on Monday failed to mention these key indicators and misrepresented a failing, wasteful service as a success.
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?.
This Monday – 21 May – Brent’s Executive will consider a ‘Progress Report’ on the implementation of the Libraries Transformation Project (library closures to you and me).
This remarkable report (which you can read on Brent’s website) barely mentions the huge drop in visits to Brent’s libraries since last October.
It barely mentions the huge drop in books issued by Brent’s libraries.
It does claim that 46% of the users of the closed libraries have moved to other libraries, but doesn’t reach the obvious conclusion – namely that the other 54%, many thousands of people, have been deprived of their library service.
Please come to Monday’s meeting to support the campaign to get our libraries back.
We will be outside Brent Town Hall at 6.15; the meeting starts at 7pm, and members of the public are welcome to attend.
The change of leadership makes this the best possible moment to show that our campaign is alive and kicking, and that we aren’t going to go away.
In a surprising move, it appears that the leader of Brent Council, Ann John has been ousted by her Deputy, Mohammed Butt. Martin Francis of Wembley Matters blog broke the news last night, and has been confirmed by Cllr James Denselow ahead of any official announcement.
Whether ridding Brent of the architect of swinging cuts to libraries, nurseries and services for the elderly and disabled, will actually change anything remains to be seen.Cllr. Butt says he wishes to mend community relations. We hope so too.
James Powney, the executive member responsible for the library closures, apparently survived an ousting himself.
Gareth Daniel, the man lambasted by Lord Laming for his role in the failure to protect murdered 8 year old Victoria Climbie (see 5.5, The Victoria Climbie Inquiry) earns £60,000 more than David Cameron.
The Brent Chief Executive takes home £203,342 each year, plus £28,793 in pensions from the council that has one of highest pension deficits in the country.
Meanwhile, 24 council workers take home more than £100,000 per year according to the Taxpayers Alliance.
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??
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”