Monday, 10 September 2012

Friern Barnet Library - Meeting One

I attended a meeting this morning at Friern Barnet Library. In addition to a dozen local community representatives and three other bloggers, (Mrs Angry, Barnet Eye and Barnet Bugle) there were four staff from the Council, Craig Cooper, Julie Taylor, Heather Wills and Mike Fahey, and two Councillors, Pauline Coakley Webb and Arjun Mittra. There are no pictures as council officers preferred no filming.

Phoenix, who leads the squatters, took the role of meeting facilitator. We had to raise out hands to speak, put up two fingers for a direct response and do a bit of jazz hands if we wanted to applaud something. So for an hour and a half there was a very polite and orderly discussion.  However, to my mind one thing was blindingly apparent. The officers had absolutely no authority to discuss Friern Barnet Library. Julie Taylor was quite clear "Friar House is the only solution". On hearing that statement a few people seemed somewhat taken aback and I wondered if it would all kick off. However a lid was kept on proceedings.  The Council are pushing the option of the library moving into Friary House because they hope it will secure a future for that building. Well hang on a minute, what about the charming and exceptionally accessible Friern Barnet Library.

Irrespective of all the perfectly sensible and wholly rational arguments put forward by the local community for keeping open Friern Barnet Library their voice just isn't being heard. The only two people who can change that situation are Councillors Dan Thomas and Robert Rams and neither were present.

Craig Cooper said that the potential capital receipt from the sale of the library would be in the region of £430,000.  To set that in context, the annual budget of the council is over £900 million so the sale of the library is a drop in the ocean. It is the equivalent of £1.25 per Barnet resident. We all chipped in £20 a year for ten years toward the Olympics so why not a one off £1.25 for the library.

What is clear now is that the squatters are in place and the library will reopen to the community but only as an all weather version of the pop up library and only in the short term. The community deserves a proper library, well resourced and managed for the long term.

After the meeting someone said to me that whilst there was dialogue there was hope. Sorry but my view is the council are stalling for time and as soon as they can market the property they will flog it.


  1. Pedantic I know John but Dan of the Barnet Bugle will say he is a newspaper not a blogger; hard to tell the difference I know but just thought I would do the correction for him.

    I do agree with you that our officers are a pointless bunch and sadly paid £130,000 a year plus and afraid of their own shadow.

  2. What a gentleman you are, Mr Mustard. It's not a pedantic interest but indeed one that Leveson Inquiry spent much time on as does the PCC Editor's code. Blogs, in essence are comment publication, they are unabashedly vehicles for the personal opinions of their authors. The Bugle aims to report and broadcast. As our articles opinion / comment pieces you are right to refer to it as an online newspaper.

    That's the difference and I'd argue it's quite easy to see!

  3. The amount of money wasted on the Arts Depot "library" should show Barnet Council that there is no point in putting a library in a place where it will not be used.

  4. You are right (as usual) Jaybird. The council seems happy to waste money so long as it delivers their ideological objectives.