Thursday, 4 October 2012

Barnet Libraries - The sad truth exposed

Yesterday I attended a meeting at South Friern Library. Full details will be posted later today. There was however one shocking admission from the Barnet Council Library service which exposes the myth that they are interested in preserving the service.

Any valuable community asset in a time of recession is likely to face budgetary threats. If the management of the organisation care and want to preserve it, they do something about this to ensure that alternative funding streams are generated. That is why your children can have a sleepover party at the science museum. That is why the friends of the Settle and Carlisle heritage railway organise steam train excursions on the route.

Barnet currently has 14 libraries. I asked a question yesterday. How many of these libraries have "friends of ...." groups to help fundraising and to organise other activities. Can you guess the answer? None. Apparently something used to exist, but no longer. As the organiser of the save Barnets libraries petition, I know libraries have huge goodwill. If each of these libraries had a friends group and each of these friends groups had say 300 members and each of these friends paid £5 to join, then that would on its own generate £21,000 without any effort at all. Extra activities and fundraising could be then organised and just suppose extra lessons and parties etc could be organised out of hours and raise say £200 per week, that would net the libraries over £140,000 per year. That with the £21,000 would be a third of the way towards plugging the gap left by the non sale of Friern Library. Over five years that is over £800,000. This is nearly twice the sum raised by the sale of Friern.

So why haven't they done this? It is a classic way to make any asset work? Because if they did, there would be a ready made protest group when the numpties tried to shut the network down. They would rather manage decline than try and encourage the community to support the network and dip into their pockets a little bit.

The Barnet library service are trying to pretend they are the good guys and are trying to say they are closing Friern to protect the rest of Barnets libraries. This is hogwash. If they were, they would engage with the community. Closing one library and disadvamtaging one community, to pay for improvements to other (often better off communities) libraries is completely immoral. The lie is now laid bare.

1 comment:

Mr Mustard said...

Ask Robert how much extra they are spending on books this year over last year. I think you might find the answer is only £5,000 - a fleabite across 350,000 people. Less than 2p each.

Also ask him the total annual spend on books across all libraries (I think it was £13,000 at Friern Barnet). That might be interesting.