The aim of this website is to be positive and upbeat about what the area has to offer. However, sometimes we’re compelled to cover local news that isn’t such pleasant reading.
In Chipping Barnet we have an excellent modern library arranged on two floors offering a broad range of services. Currently it is open every day of the week, unlike most other libraries in the borough, and on Monday, Wednesday and Friday stays open until 8pm. It goes without saying that it is an essential public service. On any visit you see a broad range of people and it hosts many events. What’s more, it is a vital facility for children.
Unfortunately, this is likely to change under current proposals to reduce the staffing to 23.5 hours per week from 56 and the size of the library by 13 percent. This means that for 68 percent of the opening hours there will be no staff present. The library will be accessed via computerised electronic gates with no supervision other than unmonitored CCTV. As well as creating a soulless (and potentially dangerous) environment, it could have a negative effect on children’s literacy.
Other local libraries are under even greater threat. Osidge Library could be reduced in size by 53 percent and only staffed 15.5 hours a week instead of 39 (no staff 75 percent of the opening hours). Worse still, East Barnet Library could be reduced in size by 67 percent, run entirely by volunteers and open 15 hours a week instead of 50.5. Other Barnet libraries have already become ‘partnership’ libraries, run by volunteers instead of professional librarians who, in our information age, are as valuable as ever.
Over the summer Save Barnet Libraries organised a series of marches attracting large crowds, with people attending from across the political spectrum. This is something residents feel very strongly about indeed, rejecting many of these ideas in earlier consultations. The council’s own risk report* even states that Open Libraries put children and vulnerable adults at risk; leave people locked inside; mean no help in an accident or emergency and allow theft of cash, property and residents’ data.
What can you do?
The latest consultation is underway and responses need to be submitted by January 6th 2016. Please take part in the online survey. Paper copies are also available at your library – you might want to pick up a few for friends, neighbours or relatives who don’t use computers or who aren’t online.
You could also add your name to the campaign ‘No to Volunteer and Unstaffed Libraries in Barnet’.
Save Barnet Libraries is holding meetings at 6.30pm at the Greek Cypriot Centre, Britannia Road, N12 9RU on the following dates:
*Only released after a Freedom of Information request by local residents.