By Richard Logue,
Barnet Council are planning to make severe cuts to our library service. They are currently consulting on three possible options:
Option 1 Massive reduction of size of library to 540 sq feet – approximately the size of a large sitting room. Possible relocation from the existing building to another site and our library building sold off.
Library hours extended but only staffed for 33% of the time.
Option 2 Our library would be closed
Option 3 Massive reduction of size of library to 540 sq feet – approximately the size of a large sitting room. Our library would be offered to our community to be run entirely by volunteers. Possible relocation to another site in Mill Hill and our library building sold off.
It’s the oldest trick in the book to give only poor options in the hope that the least bad is taken and that the discussion is immediately limited. If, like us, you feel that all three options are unacceptable and lack vision, please join us in
protesting and coming up with more constructive, imaginative ideas.
Regarding the consultation document, paper copies are available in the library. You can also complete it online at
http://engage.barnet.gov.uk/consultation-team/library-review/consult_view, but take care, the questions are worded so that it is possible to innocently give the council data that they can use to justify cuts. Here are our suggestions for the questions to watch out for:
Q6 We suggest you Don’t Answer!!
It asks you to rank which days of the week you want the library to be staffed. We advise that you don’t answer because the results could be used to justify reducing opening hours on particular days of the week.
Q7 We suggest you Don’t Answer!!
This question asks you to choose a time of day when you want libraries to be staffed. We believe that libraries should be accessible to all groups and open as long as possible. Different people use the library at different times – e.g. parents of school children may prefer mid-afternoon opening, students may prefer evenings and working people weekends.
Unstaffed opening times will restrict the time children can use the library. It will also deter elderly and vulnerable people and people with disabilities from using the library. We advise that you don’t answer this question because the result could be used to justify reduced staffing and more unstaffed hours.
Q8 Tick ‘I would not feel confident at all’ and put your reasons in the comments box at Q10 Asks how you feel about an unstaffed library. We believe that libraries should be safe places for everyone. Barnet has not explained how an unstaffed
building would be either safe or secure.
Q9 We suggest you say ‘I would not feel confident at all’ An unstaffed library would offer neither the same level of service nor be as safe as a staffed building.
Q23 Tick ‘Another option’ and explain in the Q24 comments box why you oppose all three options This is the key question which forces you to rank in order the council’s three options, which for Mill Hill are:
Option 1: Massive reduction of floor space to the approximate equivalent of the current computer room, possible relocation from the existing building, library hours extended but only staffed for 33% of the time.
Option 2: Our library would be closed
Option 3: Our library would be offered to our community to be run entirely by volunteers, but with a reduction of floor space to the approximate equivalent of a large sitting room, and possible relocation from the existing building.
We believe that all three options are bad ones, lacking imagination
and vision, and we oppose them all.
Q25 Say No!
This asks if you would be interested in volunteering. While volunteers can be a good thing if they’re trained and supported, they should not take the place of paid professional staff. Because there’s no comments box to express this
distinction we recommend saying ‘no’ to this question.
Q26 Say No!
This asks if you would be interested in running a community library. Expressing a willingness to do so gives Barnet an argument that a community can be denied a key service, available free of charge in other parts of the borough (paid for by your council tax), and asks us to run it ourselves, thus putting librarians out of a job. Running a community library is no easy thing.
We will be running a stall on the Broadway on Saturday morning, please come along and say hello, and sign our petition.
In addition we will be running a public meeting at Hartley Hall, Flower Lane on Wednesday 14th January at 7pm. Please come along to support your library and to bring your own ideas on the future of our library.
Richard Logue is the Chair of the Mill Hill Residents Association