Friern Barnet Library – A Message from the Occupants

This morning, I received a message from the occupants of Friern Barnet Library, and was asked to circulate this message more widely. The Council have so far agreed to meet the occupants twice on the premises. The campaign to reopen the library is gaining momentum; the Council offering nearby (unsuitable) premises beside Friary Park, and for the first time it appears, being willing to discuss the proposals for a local library with local campaigners.

The campaign to reopen the library has attracted significant broader attention from London radio, the BBC and the Guardian and Independent.

There is still no comment from Mike Freer MP (Finchley and Golders Green MP) whose criminalisation of squatting in residential property is one – but not the only – reason for the present occupants’ occupation of the public premises.

The letter from the occupants runs as follows;

Dear Owner/Occupier

We are happy to announce that your library is now reopen and is lending again. It is now run on a voluntary basis; books, DVD’s, videos and tapes have kindly been donated by the local community. However, we understand that running this library effectively requires the expertise of a paid librarian so we are putting pressure on the council for reinstatement of funding.

As you well know, the much cherished Friern Barnet library was closed in April 2012 following many months of protest. Last week Occupy activists, squatters and members of the local community reclaimed the library. Monday saw the local community and the local councillors attend a meeting in which Barnet council offered an alternative library building. This offer is currently being discussed by the groups involved. However, there are serious issues with the alternative proposed site, not least that the community is adamant that the library should be housed in its original building.

This week local resident Frances Briers of the Save Friern Barnet Library Campaign stated;   “After talks with the occupiers last week we decided to open the library on Saturday. Since, then occupiers and members of the campaign group have been working together in scheduling workshops and organising rotas.”


Last year Barnet Council stated that one of the objectives of its Strategic Library Review as:
‘Opportunity for all children:(to) increase reading, literacy and learning opportunities for children.   More than ever, literacy is the key to a full and productive   life…Literacy is the gateway to learning at school; it is a basic   requirement for acquiring and maintaining the essentials in life, like a home and a job, and, increasingly, it is the key to economic success. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED) has found that reading for pleasure is one of the most important indicators for the future success of a child. Promoting reading and literacy for all children must be at the heart of our library service in the future.’  This clearly states a contradictory stance in Friern Barnet policy. They appear to be saying one thing, and doing another.

In the ‘current economic climate’ it is even more vital to have access to libraries and other public services. In a time of rising joblessness libraries offer a means of self-improvement and free entertainment, they supplement children’s education in a time when school budgets are being cut and they provide a social hub in a time when the closure of public places is eroding the sense of community.

Barnet Council is planning to give £1 billion to 2 private companies over the next 10 years to take over public services. This is supposed to save the council money, but the evidence suggests otherwise.

For example; 

* The “One Barnet Programme” private consultants will cost £23 million – equivalent to the cost of running 13 Children’s Centres for the next 5 years.

* Barnet Council gave a contract worth £25 million for public parking services to NSL, which moved the administration out of Barnet, thus depriving Barnet residents of jobs.

Finally, thank you for taking the time to sign the petition relating to Friern Barnet Library. If you haven’t had the chance to do so please visit the library or see the online page at

http://petitions.barnet.gov.uk/RE-OPENFBLIB/

We are helping to keep the library open and are exploring options and solutions with the council.

Come in and get involved with the campaign to save the library. If you would like to support or organise events and workshops please visit https://sites.google.com/site/savefriernbarnetlibrary

Please spread the news about the library through any media you can.

Thank you

The Occupiers

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