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PRESTON LIBRARY CAMPAIGN VICTORY

Thanks to your support – and with your help –

Preston Library can reopen in 2015

How many of us who regularly used Preston Library or walked past it, knowing that we could drop in to borrow a book or DVD, read a paper, use a computer, study or read undisturbed, or enjoy all the cultural, social and essential activities that were hosted in the facility?

The loss of the library left a gaping hole in the heart of our community and deprived residents, young and old, and students of a vital service.

However, Brent Council has now promised to donate the Preston Library property to the local community to operate a volunteer-run library service.

The Friends of Preston Library, who have been campaigning against the closure of our library, and Preston Community Library, which has been offering book-lending and other services in the absence of a council-funded library, are delighted to be given the opportunity to restore and enhance the facilities offered by the Preston Library project.

This is great news for the community.

Sign up to our mailing list and follow us on Twitter and on Facebook to see how you can get involved with the reopening of Preston Library.

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Join us for A Christmas Carol: Thurs 20 – Sat 22 December

Local Writers and Actors reading Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ followed by Carol Singing in Preston Road, Thus 20th; Fri 21st; and Carols on Sat22nd.

One year on: torch relay and memorial service for Brent libraries

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!

Sat 13 Oct – Light of Learning Torch Relay comes to Preston – 5pm

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!

Light of Learning - Brent SOS Libraries Torch Relay - Sat 13 Oct

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Mon 22nd Oct – Preston Pub Quiz is back

Mon 22 Oct - Preston Pub Quiz

Preston Pub Quiz returns!
Monday 22nd October 2012 – 7.30pm doors £5/3
@ The Preston Pub, 161 Preston Road, Wembley

Thur 13 Sep: Kilburn Comedy Festival

The performance poets Tim Wells, Fran Isherwood and Chuquai Billy are pleased to appear as part of The Kilburn Comedy Festival. The evening is in support of Preston Library.

8pm @ The North London Tavern – 375 Kilburn High Road, London NW6 7QB – MAP

  • Tim Wells is a poet who’s performed world-wide. He’s toured the U.S 12 times and been translated into many languages including Chinese. He is a regular guest poet on BBC Radio London and is writer-in-residence with Tighten Up . Tim Wells
  • Fran Isherwood‘s poetry is a wry and playful gallop through the vagaries of life encountering mail-stealing snails, lollipop ladies, Glam Rock, insomnia and macabre part-time jobs en route. Fran Isherwood
  • Chuquai Billy is a Native American performer from the Lakota Sioux/Choctaw Nations. His material is friendly, funny and (mostly) historically correct with observations on life on the native reservation, life in the UK versus the US and on current affairs.Chuquai Billy

They will be joined by other quick-fire poets and the audience can judge the winner.

Tickets: £8 (£5 Concessions/Friends of Preston Library) – Book on 07773951099 or on the door.

Preston Community Library Open Day

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.

New hope for Preston Library campaigners following meeting with Brent Council leader – Kilburn Times

Cllr Muhammed Butt outside Kensal Rise Library

Campaigners from the Save Preston Library Campaign met with Cllr Butt to discuss potential plans for the future use of the site.

Philip Bromberg, who is part of the campaign to re-open the building in Carlton Avenue East, told the Times in a statement: “In what was a very friendly meeting, we spent an hour or so discussing the future of Preston Library and agreed to meet again in the very near future to continue the discussion.”

Continue reading article at Kilburn Times website

THIS SATURDAY: Preston Library Clean-Up at 1pm

Preston Library on Google Street Maps

They may have removed our banner in the dead of night, but the world can still see it on Google street maps.

Many of you will have noticed that in the months since it closed Preston Library has become something of an eyesore – infested with weeds, and a magnet for litter.

You could, I suppose, argue that this mess is a fitting monument to the work of Ann John and Gareth Daniel, but this was – and will again be – our library, and we have decided to clean up and re-plant the front garden.

Please join us outside Preston Library this Saturday, 9 June, at 1pm. Read the rest of this entry

Shocking cost of Kilburn Library refurbishment

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.

Councillor Mohammed Butt

New leader, old ideas? Photo: Brent & Kilburn Times

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.

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167,004 lost library visits: the true cost of closures

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.

Brent SOS LIbrary campaigners hold placards outside Brent Town Hall

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Kensal library survives a ransacking ahead of Butt’s inauguration

Very interesting article in tonight’s Kilburn Times.

Tonight the new leader Cllr. Muhammed Butt will be sworn in. On the same day, workers arrived to clear Kensal Rise library of books.

Thankfully a protest prevented it from happening. Coincidence?

Well, the embattled library -snatcher Cllr Powney (who almost lost his post last week) claims the new leader “has been part of the executive that has backed the library closures all the way”.

Butt himself claims he knew nothing about it.

Barham Library campaigner, Cllr. Paul Lorber believes this was actually a move to finally close down Kensal (the only one to have held onto its books) by the outgoing head, Cllr. Ann ‘Prince’ John.

We have requested a meeting with Cllr. Butt to discuss our library. But he has already said the way libraries were closed down “was not an issue” in the leadership change. Hmm.

MONDAY: Lobby the Brent Executive – 6.15pm: Brent Town Hall

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.

Ann John ousted

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.

 

Chief Exec earns more than Prime Minister

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.Gareth Daniel earns more than the Prime Minister

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.

Lorraine King writes in the Kilburn Times:

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Where there’s a Will!

On Monday, our inimicable Geraldine Cook put together our very own World Book Night event at the Windermere Pub (well Brent weren’t going to!), celebrating Shakespeare’s birthday and St George’s day in one fell swoop.

Read the rest of this entry

WEMBLEY MATTERS: Outrage as Brent Council plans to charge for free speech

Wembley Matters blog reports on the latest stupidity from General Ann John and the Brent Labour troopers:

Outrage as Brent Council plan to charge citizens for free speech

I thought a speaker at the Willesden Area Consultative Forum might have been rather exaggerating when she likened living under Brent Council rule to  living in the Soviet Union but then we read of Brent’s plans to include community groups in plans to licence (and charge) distributors of free literature.  I wrote in my blog breaking news of the plans that the definition of ‘political purposes’ would be open to interpretation.

Campaigns around cuts and libraries etc are ‘political’ but not representing a political party. It now appears that Brent’s interpretation is that exempt activities are those of political parties campaigning at election time.

Read rest here.

MONDAY: Shakespeare meets St George on World Book Night

image

The number of visits to Brent libraries plummet by thousands

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.

Tara Brady reports:

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.

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Boris finally decides to support our libraries…after they have closed

With the kind of breathtaking chutzpah that is almost expected of our politicians, Boris has decided that he does indeed support our libraries. A year too late, and after they have closed. I guess there is an election coming.

From Max Walters in this week’s Kilburn Times:

Boris Johnson offers his support to Brent library campaigners

Boris Johnson has offered his support to Brent’s library campaigners – describing the decision to axe half of the borough’s reading rooms as “a real shame”.

The mayoral candidate spoke out about the controversial closures as he visited residents and traders in Preston Road, Wembley, last week.

via Boris Johnson offers his support to Brent library campaigners – News – Kilburn Times.

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.

VIDEO: National Libraries Day

Thanks to Your News UK Community TV

Campaign will go on – despite Supreme Court setback

Tara Brady writes in the Kilburn Times

Campaigners leading the fight to save Brent’s closed libraries are not giving up hope and have vowed to carry on. The news library supporters had been dreading was announced today – that the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, will not hear their case.

banners hung outside Preston Library read: "Give us back our library. The fight goes on" and "This is your world. Shape it, or someone else will"

 

Margaret Bailey, who helped to take the fight to the High Court and the Appeal Court, said: “Obviously the decision is disappointing, and worrying that judges are able to make decisions that allow for the disregard of laws that are meant to protect people simply so that councils can make cuts. What next? Ignore the Equalities Act, the Human Rights Act because they may be too expensive to enforce?”

Samantha Warrington, Preston Library supporter, believes there should be a public inquiry. She said: “We have always been pursuing other routes. Now the legal avenue has closed we hope there will be a public inquiry and that Brent will consider alternatives in a way Camden has done it so positively.”

Read whole article 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”

Community turns out in force to Save Preston Library

The fight is far from over. The hall was packed, reinvigorating all of us. Preston needs it’s Library and a fair deal from the council.

image

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Sat 4 February – National Libraries Day

Children’s activity day @ Preston Park School, College Road… 10.15am – 4pm… Storytelling, pop-up library, guest authors, art corner..and more.

What the Dickens! Celebrate 200 years of Dickens @ The Windermere… 7.30pm… Readings, Open Mic, guest poets and of course ale. Come dressed up in your favourite Victorian garb.

Who said Preston Library is dead??

Poster for Children's activity day

2012 – The Fight Goes On!

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Tuesday 31st January – Public Meeting

poster announcing a public meeting for Preston Library on 31 Jan 2012

Our campaign named one of 50 Great Britons 2011 by Independent on Sunday

Alongside Sir David Attenborough and Rebecca Adlington, our campaign seems to have inspired people across the country and The Independent on Sunday. Not quite as hilarious as employee of the week

Team of The Year of course, so we are very happy.

IoS Great Britons 2011

The Independent on Sunday brings you its highly subjective list of the 50 natives of these isles who did most to lift our mood in difficult times. We also mourn those we have lost; ridicule those who deserve it; and celebrate the most inspirational foreigners

Brent library protesters

Residents fighting the closure of six libraries in the London borough of Brent represented the outrage felt by much of the nation’s readers and researchers about cutbacks by staging a round-the-clock protest outside Kensal Rise Library, which was opened by American writer Mark Twain 111 years ago. The campaigners were the first in the country to seek a judicial review into library closures.

Pub Quiz TONIGHT

@The Preston Pub (opposite Preston Library)
7.30pm (for 8pm start)

Professional quizmaster, raffle and prizes!

Come along and show your support for a hard fought campaign. It’s not over yet!

£5/3

NYT: The Demise of the Public Library

Author Kamila Shamsie writes in today’s New York Times...

The part of North London I live in borders the council of Brent, now the site of an intense legal battle to save local libraries that has become the vanguard for similar efforts around the country. On Dec. 29, police officers held back protestors outside Preston Library while local government officials removed all its books, impervious to the nearby poster of Santa, a speech bubble over his head saying “Don’t rely on me; give kids their books back.” Since April 2011, 423 libraries have either closed down or been slated for closure — that’s almost 10 percent of all libraries in Britain.

Read the rest here.

Brent is a Rotten Borough 2011

The team who closed your library won not one but two awards in December. While the cash-strapped council wasted another £15,000 in celebrating Sue McKenzie (below, centre) and her team’s noble achievement in destroying Preston, Private Eye came up with a rather more accurate award:

ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS 2011

WHO’S been bullying the electors; who’s been pocketing the brown envelopes; and who doesn’t know the difference between “astronomy” and “astrology”? Find out if your local authority is guilty of crimes against the council taxpayer and picked up a gong in the Rotten Borough Awards 2011…

……..More

LIBRARY AWARD

Congratulations to Brent council’s “team of the year”. Yes, it’s the Library Transformation Team, whose successful 2011 has seen the closure of six of the London borough’s 12 libraries in the face of community outrage.

Sue McKenzie and her Library Transformation Team with council's ludicrous Team of the year

Shamed Council take down Wall of Shame

Council Leader Ann John criticised on the Wall of ShameYesterday, 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.

Preston Library Emptied

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.

A Preston Christmas Carol (or two)

For those who missed last week’s carols – you can now sing the special ones around your tree at home. We have shown incredible spirit this year and we intend to continue into the new year.

Community singing carols at the Wall of Shame

Carols written specially for Preston Library Campaign

You can also download and print them here: A Preston Christmas Carol

Oh Library! Oh how I love you so!

Carol to the tune of Oh Tennenbaum - Oh Library!
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Brent Council blew £15,000 on awards ceremony which honoured library closure team

Brent Council spent £15,000 on an awards ceremony in which the team behind the closure of six libraries was honoured, the Times can reveal.

The council gave out 139 awards to staff at the lavish end-of-year bash at Brent Town Hall earlier this month.

The night cost taxpayers around £50 for every person who attended, the council said. The Libraries Transformation Team, which was behind the project which closed half of the borough’s libraries, was named Team of the Year.

Read the rest of this entry

Is this Brent’s improved library service?

Infographic showing Brent's new 19th century library 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:

Read the rest of this entry

The battle to save Preston Library

Thanks to Rosie Hayes at YourNewsUKtv for documenting our fight…

Can’t afford libraries ?!?

Brent wastes our moneyApparently not. It costs about £400,000 to keep 6 local libraries open. But Brent has convinced the establishment it can’t afford this. Probably because it is busy wasting £hundreds of millions of taxpayer money (below).

Justice Pill said today:

Given the scale of the spending reductions the council was required to make … a decision that the library service should bear a share of the reduction was not, in my judgment, unlawful.

Perhaps he should have a chat with Gareth Daniel, Chief Executive of Brent Council:

 the reality is that these inevitably controversial initiatives represent just a very small part of our total £42 million savings requirement for the 2011/12 financial year.

Such a small saving has not stopped Brent from spending enormous amounts of (paid) time and money defending the policy.

Brent can’t afford our libraries, but it can afford:

£550,000 for Willesden Green library – about to be bulldozed due to it being a failure. It costs more than 6 libraries put together.

£100 million mortgage on the Civic Centre – this includes that vital £4 million “tree-lined boulevard” – this project hasn’t seen a penny cut.

£3 million on a single mega-library no one asked for.

£17.3 million after failing to collect unpaid debt.

£2.5 million on the salaries of just 19 council officers – putting Brent in the Top 10 Town Hall Rich List 2011.

£205,000 salary for Chief Executive Gareth Daniel – more than the Prime Minister.

£1-2 million per month on consultants.

£800,000 Ward working (half spent on admin alone, and the rest on flowerbeds and graffiti workshops)

£500,000 on Christmas decorations for Willesden Green High Street.

£180,000 a year on the Brent Mayor.

£150,000 a year on the loss making Brent Magazine – paid for by council departments.

That totals around £140 million (give or take) that could be BETTER SPENT on libraries, nurseries and centres for the disabled. It dwarfs the £42million Brent says it needs to save. Priorities eh?

 

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