Press Release from SFBL Group 17th April
The People’s Library event, organised by Roger Tichborne, was a great success, supported by many residents. The event showed the amazing community spirit here in Friern Barnet, with tea and cakes, books and fun on our lovely village green.
The Save FBL Group sees The People’s Library as a protest, a way to demonstrate the strength of feeling from this community that we need our council-run, local library. This is a way of marking our outrage at Barnet council’s treatment of our community.
We would like to thank Roger for making the event happen, and appreciate his support as well as the ongoing support of the British Legion, Barnet Alliance and the local trade union, Unison, who attended on Saturday.
We would like to clarify that the Save FBL Group did not agree to be party to, and was not consulted about, the proposal in Roger Tichborne’s open letter sent to Barnet Council on Monday (asking Barnet Council to consider opening FBL to house The People’s Library). Whilst it was a grand gesture and admirable in its intent, the Save FBL Group group had not agreed to this action. The position of our democratic, constituted group has always been to maintain FBL as a public service run by Barnet council and staffed by paid, qualified librarians. We have maintained this position for the duration of our year-long campaign.
The Save FBL Group remains angry and disbelieving of the actions of Barnet Council. We have now learned that between July 2011 and February 29th 2012 (the day of the Scrutiny Meeting) no meetings at all took place between Barnet Council and artsdepot to discuss a landmark library.
We have also learned that Barnet Council, who insisted that the Save FBL Group proposal must cost a maximum of £10,000 per year, will be giving the Hampstead Garden Suburb Volunteer Library £25,500 this year alone. This once again demonstrates the continuing contempt shown to our community.
In 1945, hundreds of local residents stood outside the old Friern Barnet town hall to mark the end of the second world war. Last Saturday on the 4th February, a large group of local residents braved freezing temperatures outside the now defunct Town Hall and ended up at our nearly defunct, beloved library to celebrate National Libraries Day. We continue to call on cabinet to recognise the importance of our Library as the last remaining public space in Friern Barnet: the heart of our community.
The Save Friern Barnet Library Group (SFBL Group) proposal, which was to work with the Council to sustain a much-valued library service at Friern Barnet Library, was rejected by the Council last week. They rejected the possibility of working with us to investigate cross-budgetary funding of FBL and to incorporate public services such as health clinics and schools’ workshops alongside a wide range of volunteer-led services for the community. We had offered to raise revenue through imaginative use and promotion of the building and to offset council costs in return for a minimal public library service supported by volunteers.
Despite evidence of huge support from the local community for our proposal and despite the Council having invited groups to come forward with proposals for ‘community use for the building’ (Cllr Robert Rams), council officers responded by offering us only one option: to run a stand-alone, volunteer-run community library from Friary House in Friary Park. This package included no paid librarians or supporting infrastructure of Barnet’s library services: a daunting prospect.
'The SFBL group has always considered Friary House to be an unsuitable location for a library service due to the problems associated with children and vulnerable groups accessing the park after dark. The SFBL group has therefore rejected the Council's offer to pursue the idea of a stand alone, volunteer run library from Friary House.
The SFLB Group which represents over 3000 members of the Friern Barnet community, feel let down by Barnet Council. We believe that the library strategy - and the consultation - were flawed and send an impassioned plea to cabinet to respect the clear message from Friern Barnet residents: We want to keep our local library.
We do not understand cabinet’s determination to sell two local libraries in favour of establishing a library at artsdepot in North Finchley, a space deemed unsuitable for a library when Barnet Council paid consultants £100,000 to look into this option back in 2002. This move, still uncosted, is clearly an expensive one – Barnet has just sought additional funding of £1.4 million from the GLA to develop the surrounding areas of the artsdepot. To finance the move, the Council will also sell the family silver: FBL and North Finchley libraries. We question the wisdom of ploughing more public money into artsdepot, which is not a public building.
Barnet Council's decision to close Friern Barnet Library would leave its residents without a wide ranging library service for an indeterminate period, resulting in a failure in its legal duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient public library as required by The Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 (Section 7). In addition, the current Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee’s ongoing inquiry into library closures, for which the SFBL group has submitted written evidence (submission number 85) further extends a moral obligation and duty of public service to suspend any closures until the outcome of the inquiry is complete.
We want to thank all of the local residents, schools, community groups and businesses who continue to support our campaign to save Friern Barnet Library. Our library is prized as a library amenity but also as a civic structure of which residents feel rightfully proud.
Labour Coppetts councillor Barry Rawlings said:
"From the Cabinet report the Conservative council is closing Friern Barnet Library despite a residents proposal that would save the council money. It is hard to believe Cabinet Members have acted in good faith - I feel local residents have been treated with contempt."
Local resident Catherine Laz from Colney Hatch Lane says:
"It was good to see people getting together for a cause on such a cold day. It's a good feeling to see that there are other people of all ages and backgrounds who think like you and try to save a service which benefits everybody."
Notes to the editor.
Private Eye issue number 1297 wrote about Barnet’s use of consultants costing £100,000 pounds where they recommended the current Artsdeport site was not suitable for a library.
The Save Friern Barnet Library Group is proud to be a part of the national celebrations taking place this Saturday for National Libraries Day. Our event runs from 2-4pm, beginning with a community walk from the old Town Hall in Friern Barnet (corner of Friern Barnet Road and Friern Barnet Lane) to Friern Barnet Library. This is a celebration of our library and the many positive services it delivers on a regular basis to our community in Friern Barnet.
We have grown as a community to learn, value and love our library. We have always been overwhelmed by the strength of feeling and support held by many thousands of people, young and old, sharing the joy and fun experienced at Friern Barnet Library.
Alfred Rurangirwa, 50, from Holly Park Road said it was a:
“A place near my home, attractive by its architectural aspect, where I can have access to the internet, print, read
or borrow books at no cost; a place very useful for the
children's education; a place which let me stay confident
and where I can meet other people, to interact and socialise.
FBL always reminds me of the day I found books about ancient Greek-Roman civilizations that I had lost in 94’ Rwanda genocide.
They keep us informed and updated. They are a free service offered in a friendly and comfortable environment. It helped improve my children’s English through reading,
particularly during ‘Summer Challenge Reading.’ It helps
them to do their homework as they can do research in
books, the internet and be able to print off school projects. I
use it for internet, reading newspapers, read adverts for job
opportunities, meetings and seeking advice from the
librarian’s Ladies. I keep my fingers crossed to keep our
It marks a special day across the country, celebrating a variety of events across the UK. You can see more information about the scale and range of events and like our event, we hope people come out and support their libraries.
The day is about the work done at schools, college and university, workplace and public libraries. It aims to promote learning, literacy and the enjoyment of reading to all.
Our Walk To The Library Week was one example of demonstrating the strong bonds between schools, education and children enjoying a safe environment from which to learn about new worlds and build their confidence in their development and education.
The events make it a great opportunity to visit your local library, as we are planning to enjoy ours at Friern Barnet.
To mark the occasion, twenty three of our most talented writers have contributed to The Library Book, published by Profile Books in aid of The Reading Agency’s library programmes. The authors explore the significance of libraries both from a personal perspective and examine their influence both present and past. The contributors include: Julian Barnes, Alan Bennett, Stephen Fry, Lucy Mangan, Val McDermid, Caitlin Moran, Kate Mosse, Zadie Smith and Nicky Wire from the Manic Street Preachers.
Alan Gibbons, who has supported our campaign from the beginning and helped to publicise our message of hope to keep our library open said:
“The ability to read is at the heart of being a civilized human being.Research from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development shows that reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of our social and academic success, even more important than our social class. Your local library is the place you can choose a book, use a computer, and find out about local history, do research, and attend literary events, access community facilities and so much more. Now here’s the thing, it is free to use. Libraries and librarians make a huge difference.
National Literacy Trust research found that that a child who goes to a library is twice as likely to read well as one who does not. So what are you doing on Saturday, 4th February and the week leading up to it? Can you hold a story telling, a read-in, a poetry session, hold a talk about the history of your town? Could you have a party to celebrate reading? Pop down to your local library. Make sure you use it, love it, join it.”
We hope as many people as possible can come to enjoy and celebrate National Libraries Day on 4th February.