This is an update from David Butcher, Co-Chair of Friends of Kensal Rise Library
Apologies if anyone has got the sense that things have gone quiet on the library campaign. In fact, we’ve been working hard on several fronts.
Brent’s consultation period on their proposals ended on March 4th. Thanks to everyone who filled in one of their (sneaky and slanted) questionnaires. We’re waiting to discover how many were filled altogether.
We are also sending in a petition calling for the library to be kept open. We are doing a big push on this so if you can help let us know. Deborah has volunteered to coordinate this and will help if anyone would like to knock on doors or collect signatures at the stations. Her number is 07970 029072. Deborah has copies of the petition and can send it to you to print off. You can also sign it online.
As a formal response, Friends of Kensal Rise Library also submitted a Library Intervention Plan. This was a detailed proposal to revitalise the library by refurbishing the upper floors (currently barely used, but with great potential) and using them as community space (for charities, clubs, classes, workshops, exhibitions, etc.). This would generate revenue to offset the library’s running costs. The plan also proposed using local volunteers to help staff the library and, we hope, extend the opening hours. But crucially, it would remain a Brent-run council service, with professional librarians in charge.
So we gave Brent a really serious way forward and in exchange we want them to grant Kensal Rise a temporary reprieve. That would let us cost the plan more fully and research different options and sources of funding. What we submitted was already very thorough (and included a full survey of the building works needed – many thanks to True Associates) but it was just the start.
Also, we don’t just want Brent to save our library; we believe all the libraries should be saved. On that front, we collectively submitted an analysis by ex-Watersones boss Tim Coates (who has helped other boroughs restructure their library services) which shot huge holes in Brent’s figures and suggested that the savings they say are needed could be made entirely in back office costs. Tim has made himself available to give a presentation of his analysis and we hope to organize this in the next couple of weeks.
The decision on the libraries issue will be made at a Council Executive meeting on April 11th. However, the budget for the year has already been passed – including its cuts to the library services. The justification for this, Brent argues, is that although the budget has been set, they will decide on the specifics of the libraries issue once the consultation has been considered.
Clearly, there is a question mark over the legitimacy of that and the whole nature of the consultation. We, along with several other threatened libraries, have taken legal advice which has already produced a letter to the council advising them of our concerns with the process.
Regarding the Covenant, we have had good news. All Souls has written to say it supports our efforts to keep the library open and hopes that we can come to an agreement with Brent. That can only strengthen our case.
But we need to keep the pressure on over the coming weeks. We are planning several events to take place before April 11th, including…
Tim Coates talk – new strategies for libraries (date and time to be confirmed)
‘Book Share’ day – donate your favourite book to the library (date and time to be confirmed)
Mark Twain Event at the library (date and time to be confirmed)
We are also researching fundraising avenues for the costs of the campaign and the substantial capital expenditure needed for the renovation and building works. These will be developed further in the coming weeks.
Apart from the committee, a number of people have been very generous with their time, helping with fundraising and with researching the proposal that we put to Brent. Thank you to all of you and particularly to Michael Mitchell, who did a valuable analysis of Brent’s figures, Jay Hammond and Alix Lawrence, who did sterling research on the ground and True Associates for their detailed report.
Don’t forget to check out the website www.savekensalriselibrary.org for news and details about the campaign.
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