Highgate Library ‘being sacrificed’ in possible move to Jacksons Lane
PUBLISHED: 15:01 26 May 2017 | UPDATED: 16:57 26 May 2017
The introduction of plans to relocate a 110-year-old library to a nearby arts centre has been met with resistance by users.
Members of the Highgate Library Action Group (HLAG) sat in silence as bosses from Jacksons Lane and council leader Cllr Clare Kober made the case for transferring the service and disposing of its home to fund it.
Explaining how visitor numbers have dropped across the borough except in libraries getting investment, Cllr Kober – speaking at HLAG’s AGM on Wednesday – said: “It’s about upgrading the library’s offer not a way of reducing staff or service quality.
“We support Jacksons Lane. There’s an opportunity to provide a much better service,” she said.
When questioned about the possible sale of a council asset, Cllr Kober said: “With difficult choices what do you privilege most - services or buildings? I know where I land in that debate - on the side of services.”
In response, Swarna Aiyar – who lives in nearby Priory Gardens – said: “It seems like the library is being sacrificed to a bigger project.”
But Crouch End Cllr Jason Arthur urged sceptics not to think about how great the library is now, but consider what it could become.
“I would urge you to have a more open mind,” he said.
About 30 people heard how Jacksons Lane first proposed the move eight weeks ago as part of a plan to strenghten its bid for Arts Council funding.
Highgate Library bosses were then confronted by three choices: oppose the plan, let the council and Jacksons Lane meet without them or join in discussions.
Having taken the third option, chair of HLAG – set up in 1988 to see off another possible closure – Susan Chinn explained: “This does not mean we have already agreed with the proposal.
“This does not mean we have made it easy for anyone. If our library is to survive, should it be in this building?”
A Jacksons Lane spokeswoman said today: “We wish to make it clear that a merger is not being proposed, nor has it ever been.
“This is an opportunity for two well-loved cultural institutions to imagine a future together and we are committed to having an open conversation to see if that is possible.
“If it looks like it isn’t, no change will happen,” she added.
But she disputed the Arts Council bid was strengthened by the proposal saying it was sent months ago and did not refer to the library.