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Barnet Press

Plans to axe libraries are in - unless campaigners can offer an alternative ending
Thursday, 08 September 2011

By Daniel O’Brien

PLANS to axe three libraries will go ahead unless the community comes up with a proposal to save them.

The decision was called back by the business management overview and scrutiny committee at Hendon Town Hall on Monday due to concerns among some councillors about the time gap between the existing libraries closing and the new one opening.

The authority plans to merge Friern Barnet and North Finchley libraries into an arts and culture library at artsdepot in Tally Ho Corner, while ending the lease of Hampstead Garden Suburb and seeking an alternative community site nearby.

Brian Salinger, Conservative councillor for Oakleigh ward, asked the meeting if there would be a gap in provision of library facilities between the closures and the opening of the landmark library at artsdepot.

Robert Rams, cabinet member for customer access, conceded there may be a gap, but said: “We will do everything we can to minimise that gap – there may be no gap if the community puts forward a proposal.”

Community groups have until October 31 to come up with a plan.

Councillors voted on whether to refer the decision back to cabinet, but after a deadlock of five votes each, Conservative chairman Hugh Rayner used his casting vote to back the original decision.

“I am pleased that the library review has been agreed,” said Mr Rams. “We have gone against the grain of what we have seen in the rest of London where we have seen mass closures. The effort we have put in means our libraries will go from strength-to-strength.”

Martin Russo, part of the Save Friern Barnet campaign group, attended the meeting and said he was disappointed by the decision.

He said: “It strikes me that there is a conflict between improving literacy
levels and reading and the proposed closure of Friern Barnet library.”

The campaign group has already had the library inspected by English Heritage in the hopes of getting the building listed as of historical interest.

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