Thursday, 8 October 2015

East Barnet Library - sacrificed to balance the books

Barnet Council are proposing to downgrade East Barnet Library to a "Partnership Library". It will be open just 15 hours a week, run entirely by volunteers and it will occupy just one third of the space of the current library. This is to save money apparently, although this will take at least three years before the council breaks even on their investment in technology, using their wildly optimistic assumptions about how much they will get renting out spare library space, in East Barnet's case £54,000 a year. My guess is that the space will never realise the £546,000 a year they anticipate across all the Barnet libraries making the business case even more spurious.

Now you would think that this is a very underused facility to be cut so severely. In fact this is a well used library with more than 9,000 users and over 167,000 transactions a year. But what does that mean in reality. I've just popped into East Barnet Library to meet someone there. The place was full of children coming from school - with two primary schools and a secondary school on the doorstep. There was a mother and daughter working together on one of the computers and people on another three of the computers - one was out of order. There were four mature residents reading newspapers in the soft seating area. Librarians were dealing with a number of requests. The library was buzzing yet this is the same library that Barnet Council have deemed an unnecessary expense to either be run by volunteers or shut. So for all those children the alternative will be to get on a bus either to Osidge library which is to be halved in size to just 2153 sq ft or to Chipping Barnet Library. However, if the children are unaccompanied they probably won't get into either as Osidge will only be staffed for 15.5 hours a week and Chipping Barnet only for 23.5 hours a week. Outside those times unaccompanied children will be excluded.

Barnet could have avoided this problem if they hadn't decided to cut the council tax by 1% just before the 2014 local election. A political hand out to buy voters which has cost us our library service.  Cllr Reuben Thompstone will chair the committee on Monday which will push this through. If you disagree with the proposals to destroy our libraries email him at and tell him what you think.

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