Wednesday 24 December 2014

How will Brent community library campaigns fare in 2015?

As the year draws near its end let's see what the state of play is with the various library campaigns in the borough. These were set up after Brent Council closed 6 of its 12 libraries.

Two libraries,  Neasden and Tokyngton, are now gone for good, but the four others are being supported by community campaigns. This is the current state of play (information from the campaigns' blogs, Facebook pages etc).

The campaign is optimistic that it will have a space in the new development but has a wary eye on events at Kensal Rise:
 On 12th November Brent Planning Committee approved the application to demolish the building that has served as Cricklewood Library since the 1920s, and build a new mixed use development. The new four storey development will have a community space on the ground floor, sharing the building with six flats.
Friends of Cricklewood Library have been named as tenants of the community space, pending legal agreements, and we intend to run a library service, making the most of using the space by making sure it is adaptable and can be rented out to community groups for activities. We’ve got exciting plans/ideas, and a strong team – and there is a lot of talent and energy in the community to draw on.
A big thank you to everyone who has supported the campaign to keep our local library. There is a lot of work to do – but what wonderful chance to run a library/community centre and keep it right here. Please let us know if you would like to be involved – get in touch by email

Regular readers will know about recent events which saw the building go up for auction and then fail to reach its reserve price. The update on the campaign blog states:
We understand that you may be confused and concerned by the latest turn of events – the auction of the library.

The library building may or may not have a new owner.

The focus of the Friends of Kensal Rise Library has always been, and will continue to be, to work for the establishment of a library in the Kensal Rise Library building. We remain focused on this intention and our resolve is strengthened by the on-going support of the Kensal Rise/Kensal Green community - we are gratified by the trust the community places in us and are heartened by the many messages of support we continue to receive.

We received a letter on the 16th December from All Souls College, who, by the terms of their sale to Andrew Gillick, retain control of the D1 community space, whoever is the owner of the building.

Any subsequent owner of the freehold of the library inherits this obligation regarding the D1 space.

The campaign hopes to be able to run a community library from the old building when it is no longer needed as a temporary annex to Preston Park Primary School.  They hope this will be in Spring 2015 when building work at the school is completed.  During the May local elections Cllr Roxanne Mashari pledged the building at a peppercorn rent to any 'local community group who can provide a sustainable community library.':
We will not open to competitive tender in order to give preference to local groups if they can demonstrate health and safety sustainability etc. and we will offer help and assistance through Brent CVS the voluntary sector and continued support and networking through the Brent libraries forum which has proved successful for the likes of the Friends of Kensal Rise.
The campaign is now asking for more volunteers, donations from local business etc LINK
It has already been using the building out of school hours as a community hub.

The Card Room, Barham Park

 This campaign has run temporary libraries in Wembley High Road and at Sudbury Town station. but wants to move back into Barham Park Card Room (above) that has remained empty for some time,
The Council in October 2013 had plans to turn it into a cafe on a similar basis to the one in Roundwood Park but nothing has happened since and the building, donated to the public by Titus Barham remains unused and subject to deterioration.

Friends of Barham Library have said that  they are willing to offer refreshments to the public using the park if they run a community library from the building.

Cllr Michael Pavey has now become Chair of the Barham Trust and there has been a further delay as they review the governance of the Trust.  In response to a letter from Francis Henry, Property Manager for Friends of Barham Library, he said: 
I reiterate what I have said previously: I have absolute biases (I suspect this should be 'no biases' MF) on this issue. I have not been involved in any of these campaigns. My sole interest is to try and use my role to ensure that future generations can enjoy a beautiful Barham Park.
Henry had written:
I think the time has now come for you and the other Trustees to stop deferring and make a decision on this issue.
As an Administration you have now announced plans to Cuts Services. The proposals to close Youth & Community and Sports Centres while massively cutting the budget for youth services confirms the need for the voluntary sector to pick up the pieces.
Friends of Barham Library and other Volunteer Library Groups in Brent have picked up the pieces and provided makeshift services, replacing services  lost after you and your colleagues closed 6 libraries. You will recall the arguments against closures including the loss of study spaces for young people, the loss of a local safe 'community facilities' where people could go and the fact that over half the active users of the closed libraries were young people under 19.
Friends of Barham Library can make effective use of the Card Room and other parts of the Barham Buildings still available for access and not let to ACAVA. We can provide a Volunteer Library, a meeting place, venue available for giving advice, study space etc etc we can even arrange to provide refreshments (not a full blown commercial Cafe which has no chance of success). In simple terms we can provide some of the activities lost as a result of a successive and ever worsening cuts in local community facilities and services.
We have a clear record of delivery, ability to source premises, materials, books and cash.
Our shop in Wembley High Road was let to us on a two week notice - we have been there since July 2012. Sudbury Town Underground Station is let to us on similar terms but we have been there and run our activities since September 2013.
To be able to run effective activities over extended hours and to be able to raise more cash from various charitable sources we need more permanent premises and a longer security of tenure. We also need to be in Barham Park.
I and our many supporters find it very odd that the Trustees of the Barham Park Charity were prepared to bring in an organisation such as ACAVA from a long way away, who provide a service which no one asked for, while denying a group of local people, providing activities that local people actually want, a right of access to a building which was gifted to local people for their use.
I am at a loss to understand what your role is. Is it to facilitate and support local people to run activities for the benefit of their local community or is your job to block them. At present all you actions suggest that it is the latter.
I am not one for platitudes and meaningless words. I prefer direct language and straight dealing. So no more dithering on your part (or unnecessary obstruction from your officers). It is time for decisive action on your part.
There is time for you to make a decisive statement before 31 December and a clear indication that you support what we wish to achieve. If you at long last say YES before the end of this year we will ensure that the building is ready to serve local people by 31 March 2015.
If however you have no intention to allow Friends of Barham Library back into the building then please have the decency to say so now. We will all then know where we stand.
It is a measure of the importance of libraries to local people that these campaigns have kept going through difficult times and branched out  imaginatively into other activities in support of their cause. Debate continues about the role of volunteers and the need for a well funded professional library service but there can be no doubt about the commitment and staying power of these campaigners.

The Seighart Independent Library Report for England noted LINK 

There are examples of volunteer only libraries being set up across the country though there is a tendency for these to be established in reasonably affluent areas and there are still  questions over their long term viability. The more disadvantaged localities often have the greater need for such a service but they don’t tend to have the resources, experience or confidence to take over the running of their library.
As they enter 2015 with varying degrees of confidence I wish all the campaigns success in 2015.


Anonymous said...

Cricklewood and Kensal will not happen The other 2 rely on the council and are unlikely to happen either, time to use the shiny new library in wembley

I would put money on it

Anonymous said...

Why hasn't FKRL updated its supporters on the outcomes of the auction and CPS inquiries? I'd have expected it to be thrilled that the sale of KRL failed. On the other hand, perhaps the group agrees that Andrew Gillick's hand has been strengthened as regards the dropping of the D1 space. As for the dropping of the CPS investigation in the wake of Mr G's decision to sell - what to make of it?

Anonymous said...

So typical of Martin Francis and his Merry Men - not how will book lending fare or trips to libaries, but how will we fare in trying to keep an outdated service so we can indulge our maudlin nostalgia of a world that used to be.

Anonymous said...

Some folk really don't like Wembley Matters, do they? Always grousing and sucking sour-grapes.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Anon 17.46. Cllr ... ....., I believe?

Anonymous said...

Does Cricklewood have ACV listing ?

If they don't they might be in more trouble than Kensal Rise as it would seem ACV listing might help save the Building.

Anonymous said...

ACV only applies to vacant building sales. Easy way around..... Put a tenant in. As easy as that.

Alison Hopkins said...

A rather unmistakable writing style, indeed, 19:07.

Alison Hopkins said...

It's already in more trouble - the planning permission is to demolish.

Anonymous said...

Both will never be libraries. Brent has more pressing issues.

Anonymous said...

He's everywhere that Labour ex-councillor man, isn't he? If only we could find out who he is!

Anonymous said...

I bet you'd put money on it, Cllr!