Saturday, 23 October 2010

Save Barnets Librarys roadshow rolls into Edgware

When I woke up this morning, the rain was coming down by the bucketload. I'd arranged to collect signatures outside the Edgware Broadwalk shopping centre, so I thought I might get a morning off. As I poured the tea and the toast popped up, the sky cleared and off we went. What is noticable is how every High St in Barnet has a different feel. What was really noticable to me was just how much Edgware has changed in the last 30 years. When I was at school at Orange Hill in Burnt Oak, we always said you could tell the snobs, because they always said that they attended "Orange Hill in Edgware". Sadly these days, I'd say that Burnt Oak has a better selection of High Street shops (although the Broadwalk is a decent shopping centre). The Edgware fishmongers - Nat Jacobs - have long since gone, wheras Burnt Oak has two.

Anyway, myself, Maggi and Harri pitched up a stall. Business was reasonably brisk. As ever, we got asked the same questions. "Are they really planning to close libraries", "What will the old folks do", "what about our kids", "How can it be a good idea to stop people reading". Sadly none of  these questions are ones I can answer.  When I got home, I noticed a letter in the local  paper from the architect of the closure progam, Robert Rams, trying to justify his crackpot ideas.

Robert Ramsbottom just doesn't get it. Whilst all of the innovations are great, he just doesn't understand the fact that for the core library service users, borrowing  books is what it's all about and private quiet study.

One guy came up and told me how he'd arrived as a penniless immigrant and studied at the library to get a job. He said that the libraries had helped him to become a taxpayer and he couldn't believe the short sightedness oif the proposal. Another lady described how she ran a theatre group for young people, specialising in the works of William Shakespeare. She said that for many students, libraries are vital as they require books and quiet places to study. One old lady said that she visits the Library every week and will select a large print book, read it for ten minutes, and if it seems good she'll borrow it.

Robert Ramsbottom asks people to participate in his on-line consultation. I've reviewed it and is as bent as a nine bob note. As with all Barnet consultations, it is rigged to make it impossible to say "We'd rather like to keep the service as it is". Now no Tory in Barnet is going to actually suggest making a small increase in Council Tax, but a rise of 10p a week per council tax payer would cover the 20% cut Ramsbottom talks about with money to spare. I wonder how many Barnet Taxpayers would begrudge such a small sum to preserve the service for future generations. Sadly they are just too thick to realise.

Oh yes, I should report that in the 5th week of running stalls, we had our first person who was prepared to argue for library cuts. "I hate Edgware Library, it's rubbish, I want it to close". He then said "There are big libraries in central London such as the British Library which are far superior". I asked him how he proposed that the elderly, children and people with mobility issues should get there. "Oh I hadn't thought of that". I asked whether it was fair to discriminate against them. He rather sheepishly signed at that.

Another guy came up to you and said "I hate people like you from Trades Unions". I replied that I'm not a Trades Union member, I'm a small businessman who runs a succesful company. He then said "Yeah, but your a Labour Party member aren't you". Well actually I'm not, no, I'm a member of the Lib Dems. "Oh, so why are you out here then?" He asked. "Because I passionately believe that we need to keep to the libraries open in Barnet". He said "Fair Enough". I said "So will you sign?" He said "Is it a Labour or a Trades Union petition". I replied "No it is a non political campaign for everyone who supports libraries, we've had helpers from the Unions, but we've also had Lib Dems and Conservatives signing and  offering to help". At that he signed. He then said "I think it's crazy to shut them".

Have you signed the petition yet? From my stats I can see 75 people a day link to the petition, but only about 10-20 per day sign it. Why the hesitation? Come on, sign up. Email your friends, tell them to. If you have a Twitter account, twitter it, Facebook it.

We added another 100 or so signatures this morning. Given the fact that I thought it would rain and we'd get none at all, it was a great result. What is rewarding is how many people thanked us for our efforts.

1 comment:

Broadway Blogger said...

It is vital that people sign this - otherwise we could lose our libraries.

If we dont sign then there is no opposition.

It is really that simple. I cant believe that there are not 10,000+ signatures by now. This is such an important issue - not a political issue at all - just a common sense issue.

We cant lose our libraries. Barnet is known for its excellent libraries.