Saturday, 29 October 2011

Brent Libraries Latest - update on 29th October

You'll have seen that while Brent Council continue to be roundly condemned on the streets and in the press for their behaviour in relation to the Six Libraries on their "shut for ever" list, they are boasting about exciting changes under the "Libraries Transformation Project". The odd thing is that I haven't spoken to a single person  who can see anything exciting in it at all...

Sunday opening? It's not worth the loss of half the libraries (especially as we can apparently do everything online anyway)

Libraries, Arts and Heritage sent me an e-mail with a link to this depressing document telling me that the six "shut for ever" libraries are now shut, but that I have until the 30th November to return any books I borrowed from them to the remaining six libraries which are in "accessible locations within the borough".

This week Philip Pullman was quoted in the Guardian (26th October) in relation to the council's claim that closing half its libraries would help improve them "It ought to be quoted in every anthology of political bullshit from here to eternity"

The Evening Standard (27th October) featured Preston Road library and quoted campaigner Geraldine Cooke describing the brilliant pop-up library being run by volunteers and describing the council's decision as "nothing short of a betrayal". Read the whole article. So although Brent have locked the doors of the six libraries, two of them have thriving pop-up libraries run by volunteers. Go and say hello and do a turn on the rota if you can.

And in Private Eye's 50th Anniversary Issue (out 28th October) an excellent  piece on page 35 (rush out and buy it - it's only £1.50 a fortnight - Private Eye isn't available in full on line which is fair enough): 
"Brent crowed that the ruling in its favour now meant it could "push ahead with our excting plans" for the library services - but not so fast!  The stripping of the buildings was quickly halted after campaigners were granted an appeal... As well as starting to empty and board up the libraries, which remain closed until the appeal next month, Brent cancelled many of the events of "Word Up", a borough -wide literary festival taking place in those libraries around Children's Book Week.  These events included making heritage collages, treasure hunts and a talk entitled "Yes you can!"  For many people in Brent who want to use a public library, the answer is now: "No, you can't!"

And while we're talking about Private Eye, there's a good small exhibition (and free!)about the first 50 years of that esteemed organ at the V & A until 8th January.

Meanwhile the Kilburn Times reported (27th October) that Brent council have made 24 members of staff redundant following the closure of the six libraries at a cost of £250,000.
I've just looked back at the "Libraries Transformation Project" report to the Executive meeting on 15 November 2010 (which kicked off this whole sad saga) to see what's said about redundancy payments - whether they come out of the supposed savings of £1million - or not.
There's a paragraph headed "Staffing/ Accommodation Implications" which states that "A reduction in the number of library sites will necessitate a review of staffing across the service, which will be carried out in accordance with the council's Managing change policy", so it was delightfully vague on the subject of redundancy payments.

If you've already received your November edition of the Brent Magazine you will have seen "Library Legal Battle near the end" and read Ann John's statement that the council is "confident that the court of Appeal will uphold the decision of Mr Justice Ouseley that the council should be able to proceed with its library transformation plan". It sums up thus
"So, with every resident living within 1.5 miles of one of our libraries and our libraries open every week, Monday to Sunday, there is no excuse not to make the most of over six million books, free access to the internet, DVD rentals, study space, reading groups and more!"

I'm left speechless by this jolly instruction, clearly either lost in translation from whatever language they speak up in the higher echelons of Brent's library management, or beamed to us by aliens who think that there's really no need for libraries anyway.

But as you know, the fight continues. The dates for the hearing of the appeal are the 10th and 11th of November, and there's a good chance the Court of Appeal will give its judgment quite soon after that.

And, in case the good effects of the two comedy evenings are wearing off, here are some poems made at the Brondesbury Poetry Group's tent at the Queen's Park Book Festival back in June

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