The Council has published the Minutes of the May 21st Executive at which various campaigners spoke:
Philip Bromberg representing the Save Our Libraries campaign referred to the report from the Director of Environment and Neighbourhood Services which set out the current position on the Libraries Transformation Project. He referred to the acknowledgement in the report that there had been a reduction in usage since the closure of six libraries in 2011 and he did not think this situation was likely to improve. He challenged the view that active borrowers previously using one of the closed libraries had moved to one of the six remaining libraries. Mr Bromberg welcomed the decision of the recently appointed Leader of the Council to meet with Kensal Rise Library supporters and hoped that he would speak to the supporters of all the closed libraries.
Martin Redston speaking on behalf of Keep Willesden Green referred to the Willesden Green Library development project. He stated that plans appeared to have changed from the original proposals with the loss of the 150m of playground and less library floor space. He felt that the current proposed urban design would not enhance the area and compared it to the former Willesden Library building at the frontage of the site, built in 1894 whose value was recognised by English Heritage. Mr Redston called on the Executive to stop and reflect as he felt that most of the community were not in favour of the development as currently proposed.
Sonia Nerdrum addressed the Executive in support of Cricklewood Library which she reminded the meeting was a gift from All Souls College, Oxford and which had been closed as part of the libraries transformation project. Cricklewood Library was a valuable community resource particularly to families who lived in cramped accommodation and it was not always possible to travel to Willesden Green Library. Ms Nerdrum stated that All Souls College would be open to new approaches from the Council and she hoped for a new relationship with the Administration.
Melvyn Hacker (Preston Library) encouraged the Chair, as the new Leader of the Council, to meet with library campaigners and hear their views. Statistics showed that Preston Library had been very busy and alternative facilities were some distance away, especially for those living in the South Kenton area. The former library building was due to be used for primary schooling and he urged the Executive to consider its use as a library after the school day.
Councillor Lorber (Sudbury Ward councillor, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group) reported that library facilities were being provided by volunteers from the former Barham Library premises, benefiting children from across the community. Regarding the transformation project, he referred to the increase in the estimated cost of refurbishment of Kilburn Library from £117,000 to more than half a million pounds and questioned the extent to which, had this been known last year, it would have impacted on decision-making. He referred to mounting on-going costs which he considered must also be having an adverse effect on budget estimates. Councillor Lorber also raised the matter of the shortage of affordable accommodation for local groups and questioned why the previously donated Kilburn and Cricklewood Library buildings could not be made available. He urged the Executive to recognise the contribution of local people and to make good use of available assets. Councillor Kansagra (Leader of the Conservative Group) expressed a wish that the libraries issue be revisited in the light of the change in political leadership. He suggested that funds were earmarked in the budget for Ward Working projects which were not a priority and should be reallocated to libraries. He also stated that before libraries were closed replacement services should be in place.