Save Friern Barnet library!

Friern Barnet library is a small, community library in north London. In April 2012 Barnet Council closed it. The community tried everything to keep it open with demonstrations outside the library, cycle rallies and more, but sadly in vain. Once the library shut in April, Barnet Council removed all the books and left the building closed. In September, activists from the Occupy London movement went into Friern Barnet library and re-opened it to the community. The library has had over 8,000 books donated and is currently run by local volunteers.

Friern Barnet library was opened in 1934 by the Carnegie Trust. Friern Barnet residents have been using it ever since; for a sense of community, for books, CDs, DVDs, to use the computers and more. Friern Barnet library today is the only communal building in the district.

Barnet Council was also planning to close North Finchley library, built in 1936, replacing both libraries with a ‘Landmark Library’ in the Arts Depot. There are many reasons why people don’t want the libraries merged into one: residents would like their local libraries to stay where they are, as many have used them since childhood, and like the old architecture. In addition, the Arts Depot is over a mile away from Friern Barnet. Also people feel that services should not be cut, especially as our council tax is going up.

Barnet councillor Robert Rams said: ‘Friern Barnet closed because we had to make a saving to our ongoing revenue budget and that building’s closure is saving the taxpayer around £100,000 a year.’

Yet despite closing Friern Barnet library to save ‘around £100,000 a year’, Barnet was ready to spend £1m from a bid from the Mayor’s Outer London Fund and £379,000 from an investment from the council for public spaces around the area on the Arts Depot – which also asked for an extra £80,000 ‘transition funding’ for the next two years. It would have been both cheaper and easier just to keep Friern Barnet and North Finchley libraries open.

Now Barnet Council has decided to place its ‘Landmark Library’ in North Finchley library, but has ruled out re-opening the library in Friern Barnet.

One question raised many times is that if nearby wealthy Hampstead Garden Suburb can keep its community-run library, why can’t Friern Barnet? Both libraries are in Barnet. In questions to a council cabinet meeting in February, an 11-year-old boy asked: ‘Why are the poorer children in Friern Barnet losing their library while the much richer children in Hampstead Garden Suburb get to keep theirs? It seems really unfair as lots of my friends’ parents don’t speak English as a first language and when I go to their houses they don’t have many books. I live in Friern Barnet not Hampstead Garden Suburb.’

Please sign the petition at http://you.38 degrees. org.uk/petitions/re-open-friern-barnet-library. If you live locally, visit the library, borrow books, even volunteer for an hour or two.

For more details tel: 07592 231 150

Samar Barakat

FRFI 230 December 2012/January 2013

 

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