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Campaigners’ ambitious £1million target to save Chalk Farm Library

15:40 22 September 2011

Sharon Ridsdale (left) and Philippa Jackson of Friends of Chalk Farm Library petition against the cuts earlier this year

Sharon Ridsdale (left) and Philippa Jackson of Friends of Chalk Farm Library petition against the cuts earlier this year

Natalie Naccache

Library campaigners say they will need to raise £1million to save Chalk Farm Library after Camden Council withdrew its funding.

Plans to rescue the library in Sharpleshall Street were set in motion on Tuesday (September 21), as the Primrose Hill Community Association agreed to bolster the efforts of the Friends of Chalk Farm Library.

Council funding of £138,000 annually runs out in March next year and campaigners have set the ambitious target to secure the library’s long-term future.

Colin St Johnston, treasurer of the community association, said: “We want to get enough cash so that we can mostly live off the interest and also raise a certain amount of money each year.

“The library is, as a building, something which belongs to the community and it would be a real shame for it not to be taken up and for it to be sold off to some property developer.”

Campaigners hope to raise the ambitious £1million sum through fundraising and donations.

The friends group said they could not run the library on goodwill alone and welcomed help from the community association to put together a joint bid.

At an action meeting on Monday (September 19) campaigners sought suggestions from residents about the services they wanted and the expertise they could offer.

A proposal to formally enter an expression of interest in a community takeover was approved by the majority of residents.

Sharon Ridsdale, treasurer of the Friends of Chalk Farm Library, said: “A community enterprise is the only way we’re going to retain that community space which there aren’t a lot of. That realisation has spurred people on to try and keep it open.”

Campaigners will work with council officials to set up a viable plan to keep the library open.

The council has offered transitional funding to help smooth the takeover.

Playwright Alan Bennett, who has criticised decisions to close libraries in the past, told the Ham&High: “The problem at the moment is that there is a lot of good feeling there but it’s not directed. But I would say it was a good first meeting.”

Two other “orphan libraries” hit by council cuts are also planning their survival strategies.

Friends of Heath Library are set to put together an action plan at a meeting on October 19 and Friends of Belsize Library are looking to join up with other community projects to stay open.

Hampstead Garden Suburb Residents Association has set it sights on recruiting 40 volunteers to save the Suburb’s library, threatened with closure by Barnet Council. More than 20 people have already come forward.

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