Thursday 5 April 2012 will be remembered forever by the Friern Barnet community as the day that not only our library was closed, but the day that Barnet Council tore the heart out of our community. Over the past year I have been astonished and outraged at the blatant lack of regard for the residents of Friern Barnet by Barnet's Cabinet members. This was epitomised on Wednesday evening when once again Cabinet members swiftly voted through the decision to continue with the closure of Friern Barnet Library as planned, with little discussion or debate, despite 76 public questions, a packed gallery of supporters and strong arguments from members of the Business Management Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Cllr. Brian Salinger and Cllr. Barry Rawlings.
Cllr. Rams had earlier tweeted that he hoped for 'a more civilised debate and discussion.' Civilised we were, (although Cllr. Rams might have been better directing his comment to his colleague and fellow Cabinet member Cllr. Coleman, who, during public question time, was heard telling one resident to 'clear off'), but I seem to have missed the 'debate and discussion' part.
Telling my two year old daughter that she will be able to visit an undefined 'Landmark' facility, two miles away from our home, some unspecified time in the future, is of no comfort. Like any toddler or young child, she wants to go there now and she wants to walk! For a parent, deciding how to spend that odd hour before lunch or after school, do I get in the car to drive along a grid locked Friern Barnet Road only to spend a further 15 minutes trying to park and negotiate a ridiculous pay by mobile parking system, or do I wait 15 minutes for a bus which I am unable to get on because there are already two buggies on there, or do I simply leave the house and walk the 10 minutes up the road to our lovely local library? Barnet Council - this is the life of real people and what real people need is our local library.
Wednesday night was an outrage and disgrace for democracy in the Borough of Barnet, for Friern Barnet residents it was a travesty.
Published in Barnet Times and Barnet & Whetstone Press, Thursday 12 April 2012
The Closure of Friern Barnet Libary
It was our communal centre, a place to learn, study, read, discover new worlds, fire up imaginations, find information and support, friends, find help with childcare, child minding support, providing many ideas and educational projects for many children, schools, families and local people.
It served as a place of refuge away from the crowds and busy streets of our modern city life in London.
We asked Barnet Council to keep it and our green communal space, our green village, open. This is our centre and we wanted to keep that way, open.
It served to feed the very hearts and minds of our lively, busy, strong, good natured and diverse community.
We are a diverse group of young and old, including young families, attracted to the area because of the close proximity of the library, its resources available and we had grown through many generations, to enjoy, learn and discover a sense of community.
There was an increasing variety of job seekers, including the young, who have a great need to make use of the free internet, computer facilities, study and information provided by the library.
There are the elderly, a nearby sheltered housing centre and people with disabilities and mobility issues who welcome and enjoy its locality and services.
The prospect of travelling to North Finchley for services, could prove very challenging.
The Arts Depot is local to North Finchley but not to Friern Barnet. Public transport for some, can be costly, inconvenient and slow in our ever increasing world of heavy traffic gridlocks.
The relocation agreed to North Finchley could transform a relatively trouble free journey and change it into a more stressful and tiresome expedition to the library for some members of our community.
It could potentially have a bigger impact on the most vulnerable members of our local community, particularly people with disabilities and mobility issues.
The local residents expressed concern about its impact and trusted it would meet current legislation concerning Equality laws, with the subject and application of some form of Equality impact assessment being carried out on behalf of local residents but this resulted in no change of the vote to close it.
And we hoped we could keep it just the way we liked it, here in Friern Barnet. Local Barnet residents have enjoyed the warmth, support and benefits of the library and valued its friendly staff and amenities enjoyed in many peoples lifetimes.
People have made friends, many people, from all walks of life, from different generations and backgrounds, like you, enjoying the pleasure of being able to walk to Friern Barnet library. Barnet council did not listen to our concerns and voted through it's closure.
Dear Stephen Fry,
I am writing to ask for your support in the fight against the Barnet council to keep our library open.
I was watching one of the episodes of your wonderful television series, "Fry's planet word," when you were talking about books, and how you would always vouch to keep libraries open that gave me the idea of writing to you.
I really think it would help publicity to save it if you helped us, because a lot of people follow and support you in pretty much everything you do publicly.
Several petitions forms have been filled up, many protests have been upheld, but the council do nothing but ignore us.
One of the reasons the closure is a problem, is that they aren't closing it, they are permanently moving it to a library a considerable distance away which we could only reach by car; or should I say the locals could only reach by car. Countless people visit the gem of our "town" every week to enjoy and embrace the fiction and non- fiction that literally flies within the walls that is its sanctuary, that the council is trying to crush.
There is so much more I'd like to tell you but you must be busy, but just remember, that not only the adults fight, but the children do too.
I'm only 11 but just like my classmates, we love books, and will do anything to keep our local library, our gem, here and local.
(also, they are replacing the building and the green next to it with a block of repulsive flats.)
Kimberley (aged 11)