Tuesday 6 August 2013

Brent library closures could swing local elections

The pop-up library continues
A report today from the Save Kensal Rise Library Campaign gives the result of a survey of a  representative sample of local residents:
  • 72% of local residents say that shutting the library will definitely or probably affect their voting intention at the next General and Local elections
  • Brent Council are overwhelmingly viewed as “very responsible” for the library closure by 94% of residents in 2013 (and a further 6% “slightly responsible”). All Souls College (54% very responsible and 30% “slightly”) and the Coalition Government (52% and 38%) come next on the list 
  • 96% of respondents in 2013 feel that “Brent Council doesn’t listen to residents” and 98% think the actions of Brent Council have been “against the interests of the local community”. 
  • Nine in ten (94%) locals “object to the library being turned into flats”. 95% agree that they “would worry about the lack of community space in the area”. Eight in ten agree “turning the library into private rental flats would harm the community” (82%). Only 3% think that “private rental flats would benefit the local community. 94% of survey respondents think urge that “the developer should listen to the pleas of the residents” 
  • Since the library has shut,  72% of residents have decided against a trip to a different library which is particularly worrying in the context of our local literacy challenges and 51% have been forced to buy books they would have wanted to loan 
  • 79% of residents say the pop-up library that has emerged is a cheerful presence that symbolises community spirit and 72% believe it epitomises local residents’ determination to fight Brent Council’s decision
In a survey released today of public attitudes to Kensal Rise library, the Save Kensal Rise Library campaign highlights the critical impact library closures will have on the next local and general elections. 
Almost 3 in 4 residents (72%) say closure of libraries “will definitely” or “probably” affect their voting intention. When asked who is responsible for libraries closing in Brent, 9 in 10 residents firmly cite Brent Council as most responsible (94%) with over half blaming the All Souls College (54%) and the Coalition Government (52%).
Highlighting the impact the decision is having on local lives, since the library has shut, 72% of residents have decided against a trip to a different library and 51% have been forced to buy books they would have wanted to loan  – placing ever greater pressure on tight family finances particularly on those with children. Over 1 in 5 (22%) residents say they have nowhere local to go to spend time with others. 17% have experienced overcrowding at an alternative local library session. The numbers have increased in all the areas over the two-year time period between surveys – which are worrying trends. 
Efforts to create a temporary pop-up library had gone down well with residents. 82% of respondents in 2013 said “it is a cheerful presence and a symbol of community spirit” and 84% agreed that it is a “good indication of residents’ determination to keep the library going”. All measures have improved over two years between surveys – indicating growing appreciation of the pop-up library despite recognition is it no long term alternative to a properly-resourced library. 

Margaret Bailey, co-chair of the Friends of Kensal Rise Library campaign said:
“The stark reality of the impact on lives comes through strongly. Closing Kensal Rise library is not just an issue for Brent’s balance sheets – it is hurting local families, children and elderly residents. People are putting off trips to the library and being forced to spend precious money they don’t always have to meet a shortfall in local provision. The social value of the library is going completely unnoticed”
David Butcher, co-chair of the Friends of Kensal Rise Library campaign said:
“The survey confirms what we knew, that passion is running high on this issue and that people will take this issue to the polls. Politicians and developers ignore this at their peril.”
“It’s time for all concerned to recognise the implications of closing services. We want them to come and speak to us about our plans to open a community-run library space that the public so overwhelmingly are demanding”
Voices from the survey – a selection of quotes from the survey
The library was a life saver for me when my children were small. It's the hub of community, somewhere to go when you are isolated.

As a child, I made my first fairy cakes from a book I borrowed at the library. Being Indian this was a big step as we don't bake traditionally. This one of many steps that made me feel part of the British community

When my first baby was two months old we were locked out in the cold and left keys inside. Desperate, I eventually sought help at my library, the woman advised me and offered me warmth and reassurance till the fire brigade came. Where else offers this kind of safe haven to isolated people?  

My children went there from birth & joined in all the events - Christmas, Divali, Chinese New Year etc.  We kept contact there with people who'd gone on to different schools etc.  I have always belonged to a local library and have never used one less than I currently do (in 51 years!).  I feel very sad every time I walk past it (almost daily).
I feel more isolated and I no longer have the help and service it's staff provided

I have nowhere to take my children to find books to help with their homework.

I have lost the chance to study in a venue with other people. Deprived of access to resources, I often work alone in my room

I regularly have outstanding loans as I have irregular internet access and have to travel specially to Queens Park.
I loved walking into the library space…and seeing the building, its beautiful fired tiles, the architraves and the feeling of welcome and well being it gave me. This reflects Brent Council’s lack of understanding about what makes people contented.

The day before the library closed, I got a book on Superman. This was when I was 7. I’m 10 now. I also remember a big party that took place before the closure, made to try and stop the council closing it. Everyone thought this was enough. 

I came with my four year old to the library on the afternoon the library had been raided by the police. My daughter was frightened and sad to hear her library had been closed and all the books stolen (as she saw it) by the police. 

Knowing that I am in a community where people can work together on something like this gives me hope for the future and inspires me to try to contribute more to the community 

The campaign has helped make us a stronger community.  Even those of us who haven't actually done much have been supporting in spirit and it has given us a common cause.  

I'm amazed and in awe of all who continue to fight and want to pass my appreciation on

People have been brought together, new friendships formed and a sense of common purpose shared.  This could continue INSIDE the building rather than relegated to the cold outside.
This building should not be destroyed by using it for flats. It should  definitely be listed and remain as a library and maybe for other community uses to make it more viable.

There are so few public places that we can go without being expected to spend money or pass through as quickly as possible. So few places where parents with young children or elderly citizens can feel genuinely welcome and unhurried. So few places that seek to expand our minds rather than entice us to empty our pockets. This is a thing worth fighting for.

We should never stop fighting to save a cause so vital in an age where so many people think the internet is a sufficient resource for finding knowledge. It will never replace books or libraries where people can meet in a haven of knowledge, discovery, and community.

I do not know anyone who would consider travelling as far as Wembley to use the library. The point about libraries is that they should be a local resource.  I am deeply indebted to campaigners for their sustained efforts on our behalf.
The survey is based on a poll of 272 residents conducted between May and July 2013. With 272 responses, the survey is representative of the 10,668 population of the Kensal Green ward and the 268,000 population of Brent. The respondents reflected the area’s diversity in terms of age, ethnicity, and gender of respondents.


Anonymous said...

Looks like Coalition policy of handing down cuts to local government who get the blame has worked then

trevor said...

I stopped using Libraries Years ago
especially since I started using the internet and found websites that sell books sometimes for as Little as 50p.
But way back in the 1970s before The internet was invented I used the Libraries often
and since the nearest one to me was queens park Library I used That one and used to spend hours Browsing and Looking for books that interested me.
my favorites at that time was greek mythology and history and Tin Tin!
I was also a big fan of elvis Presley and so I used to borrow tapes as well.
Now Tin Tin and Greek myths and Elvis no longer appeal to me
and even if they did I would rather buy them via the internet than go to my local library.
Its sad That The government are taking a sword to Libraries but whenever people are governed by wicked hypocrites we have to expect these things to happen.
either way They will never ever get a vote from me.