In big cities like London small community efforts always don’t make it to the headlines. But there are some exceptions like reopening of the Friern Barnet Community Library.
I recently moved to London with my husband. We found a nice apartment in the north of London in Friern Barnet. Friern Barnet is an area with the London borough of Barnet.
The iron lady, Margaret Thachter Britain’s first female prime minister was elected from this area. Friern Barnet is a multi-culti area.
The housing in this area is typically Victorian and early Edwardian in this area that makes my walk in the area beautiful as I am interested in old buildings and architecture. One day, while exploring my neighbourhood, an old red brick library building caught up my eyes. It was the building of the community library.
I walked in and saw some a banner “Friern Barnet Community Library re-opened on 5th Feb. 2013. Why was it closed? Who closed it ? and how did it reopen?
The library was built in 1934 by the Carnegie trust. It is the only library in the area. Fiona Brickword, one of the trustees of the library, with whom I met during my first visit to the told me that, “ it is the only place for the community that serves as a real community center. We have books & DvD and Cds to lend. We also offer special yoga & language classes.’’
Save our library:
The library was closed down by the Barnet Council on a 24 hours notice on April 5th 2012. There were many other public service buildings that were closed down by the council to sell them in the time of recession. The community came out on the streets and protested.
However, the Council didn’t pay much attention. The community continued to protest. They also started online petition. It states:
"We the residents, students and workers, are petitioning Barnet Council to RE-OPEN our local library. Friern Barnet Library in its present place and shape is an integral part of community life in the surrounding area."
Reema Patel, the another trustee is a barrister in training and she advised the community through the early court hearings, then drew a top calss legal team and worked with them through the final court battles.
The local community was joined by the activits from the occupy movement in September and they re-opened the library in September. It was direct action by the community.
There were talks between the Council and the community members. Fionna tells enthuisiastically, “finally on 5th February 2013, we saved our library and the library was handed over to the trustees of the the newly formed Friern Barnet Community Library Ltd.’’
What’s happening now?
Currently the library is opened from Monday to Saturday There are more than 70 volunteers helping to run the activities, says Fiona.
There are events for childrens, young mothers & old citizens. There are yoga, knitting and song and storytime classes on regular basis. It is organized by the locals & it is open to all.
There are weekly music nights. I went there on a Friday to attend a live jazz concert. It was lively and full of positive energy. The local community members were happy to entertain and mingle in with any new person coming in. They would like to have good time with each other in their library. The library serves as a community center in real sense.
The library would recieve 25,000 pounds for 2 years by the Council. It has to generate more money to run it. There is a black donation box lying on the reception table, community members and people from outside keep filling it. There are books to sell and the trustees are looking for other ways to generate funds to keep the library open. If you are keen to help, feel free to send them few bucks to help libraries survive in the time of recession. An old man once said, “closing libraries in recession is like closing hospitals in a plague.’’ So, let’s have a big heart and help libraries survive.