Hamptead Garden Suburb fight in their thousands for Market Place library
16:00 01 July 2011
Half of Hampstead Garden Suburb has thrown its weight behind a battle to save their beloved local library from the axe.
In just two months more than 2,500 people have signed a petition – a number which represents almost half of the 6,500 Suburb households – to save the 80 square foot library earmarked by Barnet Council for closure.
Deborah Warman, who is leading the SOS: Save Our Suburb Library campaign, describes the 60-year-old library as the “lynchpin” of Market Place and the suburb community as a whole.
She said: “One amazing thing about this library is that elderly people and mums with prams walk there, and on the way they stop into shops. We have become such a driving culture that this is a really rare thing. I have always been a huge reader and I like going into the library. The librarians give me tips now because they have got to know my taste – I meet up with other people there to exchange notes on books and swap recommendations. It’s hugely social.”
But Barnet has said that each person’s visit to the library costs the council £6.77 and it must close.
Neville Silver, 79, who has lived just 100 metres from the library for 50 years, has been crunching the numbers and disagrees. He argues that the library could cost Barnet just £50,000 a year to keep open – a drop in the ocean compared to the £1.4million they plan to save on libraries across the board.
The SOS campaign argues that the council has placed completely disproportionate management and stock costs on the tiny library.
Mr Silver added that £10,250 will still have to be paid annually as the council is tied into a lease until 2021.
Currently £67,000 is paid for two members of staff but SOS has offered to fill one of the spots with a rotating group of keen volunteers.
Mr Neville said: “The saddest thing is we can’t seem to get support from our own councillors – we get the feeling that they are more willing to toe the party line rather than support the views of their residents.
“It seems the Suburb library doesn’t fit in with Barnet’s grandiose idea of big libraries with huge facilities.”
Councillor Robert Rams, customer access and partnerships boss, said: “Our extensive library consultation is now closed and we’ll be considering all comments and petitions before making our final proposal to cabinet on July 26.”5