Maureen Ivens (middle) on the 'Our Barnet' not 'One Barnet' march with Shari Darby (left) & Joanna Fryer (right) from the Save Friern Barnet Library Group
In April this year Friern Barnet library was shut down by the Council, under the One Barnet Policy, following protracted protests by the local community and the rejection of Save Friern Barnet Library Group’s two cogent proposals to run the facility with a skeleton paid staff. What has changed since then locally, and why is the Save Friern Barnet Library Group battling to have it reopened?
On July 23rd I spoke to the owners of four businesses in the parade of shops next to the library (the fifth having shut for the day apparently for want of passing trade thanks to the cones placed along Friern Barnet Road 24 hours before they were needed for the Olympic Torch Relay). Three of the four (the estate agent said his trade comes via the internet) had seen their livelihoods plummet since the library was closed. Mr Rajendrum of Anika News said his takings were down between 35 and 40%. The owner of Pizza Plaza, Mr Hassan, told me his business was losing over £700 worth of business a month. Meanwhile, Mr Masani, who runs the grocers on the corner of Friern Barnet Green, complained that his income had slumped by £1,500 a week. They all want the library to reopen.
Ridiculously, North Finchley library now has two functioning libraries (albeit one that only opens 12 hours a week). This last facility has not proved popular – no doubt because it is so rarely open. Our member Keith Martin calculated that it would be cheaper to courier books to the five residents a day who go through its doors than pay for overheads and staff. Meanwhile I have observed the over-crowding at North Finchley library where students and residents in general struggle to find a place to sit.
Another gross inequity has emerged recently: the Conservative-run ward of Hampstead Garden Suburb, where residents accepted a volunteer-run library model, have received a package of support from Barnet Council that so greatly outstrips what was offered Labour-run Coppetts Ward (where Friern Barnet library is located) as to raise questions about the legality of the situation.
In Friern Barnet the shutting of the library was a kick in the teeth to the local unemployed, the frail and those with disabilities, not to mention parents wanting the “life-saver” (as one Dad described it) of a local library and hundreds of students and children who cannot go to North Finchley or Osidge Library after school to do their homework. Mums and Dads of toddlers are sorely missing the much-loved ‘rhyme time’ sessions as well as members of the reading club that social activity.
Our petition to have the library re-opened has reached over 2,500 so that Barnet Council’s Business Management Overview and Scrutiny Committee is now forced to debate this again at its 31st July meeting at HendonTown Hall.
If you have not yet signed our online petition please do so now (and get your family, friends and neighbours to do the same) so that we reach the requisite 7,000 signatures to trigger a full Council debate on the issue.
Chair of Save Friern Barnet Library Group
If you want to watch local councillors debate the 'Re-open Friern Barnet Library' petition come along to the meeting on Tuesday night:
Tuesday 31st July at 7pm, Hendon Town Hall, The Burroughs, NW4 4BG
You can also request to speak to the committee or ask a public question.
To submit a question or request to speak, email firstname.lastname@example.org by 10am on Friday 27 July.
Posted by Maureen Ivens, Chair of Save Friern Barnet Library Group on July 24, 2012 Originally published on Campaign for a better Barnet