Library closures

Written evidence submitted by the Save Cricklewood Library Campaign (LIB 106)

Summary

Cricklewood Library in the London Borough of Brent closed in October 2011.A ten month campaign, supported unanimously by residents in Cricklewood to save the library which Brent Council conceded received over a thousand visits every week ,involved legal action,petitioning,’read-ins’,and many events such as garden parties,bookstalls,celebrity appearances and classical concerts.Brent Council ,who acknowledged that 82% of the borough respondees to consultation ,opposed their so-called Transforming Libraries consultation continued with their proposals,refused to hold a local consultation meeting in Cricklewood and have closed the library.

Representations to local MP Sarah Teather , and hundreds of letters to Jeremy Hunt MP Secretary of State at the DCMS from Cricklewood residents, have produced no action.

From our experience of the destruction of our 82 year old library we submit that:

- Local accessible libraries are essential parts of a comprehensive and efficient 21st century library service.Further legal protection for local libraries is urgently required.

- Minimum standards for access and provision of libraries should be set in statutory guidance by the Secretary of State

- The Secretary of State should institute a public inquiry into the decimation of the library service by Brent Council which involved the closure of six libraries

- Guidance should recognise the importance of study areas and access to IT equipment for children and young people living in areas of social need such as Cricklewood

- Guidance should recognise the importance of a local library which can be reached by parents of young children who do not possess private transport.

1 What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century?

The 21st century will see a huge growth in accessible data,works of fiction and non-fiction and research opportunities on the web and any successors.The range of use of E books is an as yet uncertain development in terms of usage and access.Currently commercial restrictions on access to E titles are preventing opportunities for libraries to offer a quality service in this area.The death of the book ,often widely predicted,is very uncertain and a strategy based on this runs the risk of further disenfranchising the poorest in society.

Trends suggest that in the UK,with uneven access to technology,the key role of a library will be to continue to provide accessible research facilities ,quiet research and study facilities and opportunities to the parents of younger children to reach a wide selection of titles and enjoy reading at the earliest age.A library remains a model of self-education for all ages and an important part of the fabric of a successful community .

2 The extent to which the planned closures are compatible with the requirements of the Libraries and Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris report

Cricklewood Library was commissioned in 1923 following a response from the Willesden Central Libraries Committee to many request s from Cricklewood residents .Initially situated at Mora Road Primary School the library was soon serving 1,000 users a week ( source Brent Local History Archives) and the Willesden Committee decided to commission a building .Land was donated by the Warden and Fellows of All Souls College,Oxford who had many connections with the local area.

The new library opened on 8 June 1929.It has served the local population and schools for 82 years even remaining open during 1940 when the area was subject to heavy bombing by German aeroplanes.The Bursar of All Souls College has written several times to Brent Council recently stating the wish of the College that the building continues to be used as a public library.

Brent Council data shows that ,despite reduced opening hours and a very limited stock,as well as the removal of the Brent archive to another library and the closure of the first floor ,visitor numbers have remained high at 48,786 visits per annum .In short,allowing for day and weekend closures and public holidays,Cricklewood library receives over 1,000 visitors a week( report to Brent Council Executive 11 April 2011).Exactly as it did in 1923.

A popular and much loved local library within walking distance( 10 minutes) of four primary schools,Mora Primary,Gladstone Park Primary,Anson Primary and Torah Temimah Primary.

There is no direct bus service to the nearest library ,Willesden Green,which the Council recommends to local Cricklewood residents as the nearest.Two bus journeys would take ,allowing for waiting,an hour each way and cost £5.20 return for an adult using Oyster concessionary card.Walking would take a very fit adult twenty minutes,an average over 60 forty minutes and a parent pushing a pram or walking with small children up to an hour.Access for older citizens and those with physical impairments is very poor.

These each way journeys by walking and bus mean that the nearest library to Cricklewood is inaccessible to many local residents who often do not own a car .Even when a family owns a vehicle this is often used for work purposes by an adult and not available for transport to facilities such as libraries.

The Charteris report by the DCMS suggested that there should be ‘consideration of the wide range of those needs caught by the definition of all those who live,work and study in the area and the specific needs of adults and children and young people of all ages’

No such consideration was made by Brent Council in the decision to close Cricklewood and evidence from local schools and community organisations shows that access to literacy and study has declined in an area where Free School Meal take up figures are significantly above the national average.

It would appear therefore that the recommendations of the Charteris report and the definition of comprehensive need to be included in statutory guidance tolocal authorities.

3 The impact of library clsoures on local communities

The impact of the closure of Cricklewood library has been to reduce the meeting places of the local community to nil as there are no other community buildings in the area outside of public houses and bingo.

Although the campaign to save the library attracted several hundred local people and built community cohesion there is now a sense of despair that the local authority and the Secretary of State do not care for the area.

There are significant numbers of single parents in the area who miss the library most. Headteachers and governors of the local schools believe that the additional family literacy programme is nolonger being delivered.

4 The effectiveness of theSecretary of State ‘s powers of intervention under the Public Libraries and Museums Act

Cricklewood Library is one of six libraries being closed in Brent - exactly 50%.This devastationof services is affecting each of the six areas in different ways.

It is not the Secretary of State’s powers but his apparent unwillingness to use them in relation to this Brent programme to effect the largest closure programme in England and Wales that seem to require attention.

January 2012

Prepared 6th February 2012