Monday 17 September 2012

Friern Barnet Library - Meeting Two

Today was the second meeting at Friern Barnet Library between, the squatters, community representatives and council officers. Sadly neither Cllr Rams or Thomas were in attendance. Craig Cooper, the council's commercial director  was replaced this week by Bill Murphy who is in charge of libraries.

The meeting kicked off with a statement from Phoenix that he and the other squatters want a properly run and resourced library, a statement which I personally was very pleased to here. He then said that the New Carnegie Foundation may be willing to help provide funds towards keeping the library open. Keith Martin, who has been a long time community campaigner for the library, also read out a statement he had received from Carnegie UK saying they hoped the library could be kept open.

During the discussions Bill Murphy made the point that the Artsdepot Landmark Library may or may not go ahead something which came as a shock to most of those present. He also noted that although they had saved £300,000 so far there was still another £1.1 million to be saved.

The one thing he did do was clarify that actually it doesn't matter how little the Friern Barnet library could be run for, it still doesn't matter because the council must sell the library to fund investment in other libraries. So there you have it. Friern Barnet Library is being sacrificed to fund improvements in other libraries. That seems awfully tough on Friern Barnet residents.

Roger T of the Barnet Eye then discussed the elephant in the room. "Are the council still pursuing the eviction proceedings?" Julie Taylor seemed to hedge around the subject but didn't deny proceedings were still going ahead. After some discussion from Phoenix, a promise was made by Julie Taylor that the officers would at least report back the request to suspend eviction proceedings. We will have to see what happens in court tomorrow.

Dr Julia Hines suggested that in order to save money now, the council should shut the temporary library at the Artsdepot. Although it is costing around £34,000 in rent, it is getting only between 4 and 5 visitors a day whilst the squatter library is getting 50 -70 people a day and costing the council virtually nothing.

Eventually the meeting finished but I remain left with the clear view that Barnet will off sell Friern Barnet Library no matter what alternatives are proposed or residents want and that is nothing short of a disgrace.

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