Monday, 23 May 2011
Robert Rams' worst nightmare
When Barnet's Tory administration announced its Strategic Library Review, around the same time as they announced they are cutting £1.4 million of funding from the library service, library champions swung into action. Street stalls and the online petition garnered several thousand signatures; contacts were made throughout the borough. Groups such as the East Finchley Library Users Group launched pre-emptive 'hands off our library' campaigns.
We all expected that Barnet might lose five or six libraries, as Brent is doing. We expected issue desks to spring up in the corner of the local Costa. In the event, the results of the SLR looked reasonably benign. People - the sort of people I know! - are in the habit of saying "they scare you into thinking the cuts are going to be really bad so that when they are announced they don't seem half so bad". Perhaps that's what Barnet thought they had done.
But, standing back, the library cuts are still pretty bad. £1.4 million worth of bad. And if you use Friern Barnet library or Hampstead Garden Suburb library, both due to close, they are very bad indeed! The users of these libraries are not going to take the cuts lying down.
Cue Robert Rams', the architect of Barnet's library cuts, worst nightmare! A demonstration outside Friern Barnet library on Saturday 21 May drew more than 200 people. Local schoolchildren who use the library were much in evidence with posters they had made. Local residents are campaigning to have the green space next to the library recognised as a village green.
The site on which Friern Barnet library stands is valued at more than £400,000. Who would pay for such a site but a property developer? Friern Barnet lacks a real centre - apart from the library! People won't readily accept that it disappear simply to make way for yet another undistinguished block of flats. Good luck to them! Please visit their blog and sign their petition on the Barnet council website.
P.S. Thank you to BL for the photograph.