Author invited to promote council’s library service attacks branch closures

Selma James attacked library closures

Selma James attacked library closures - Credit: Archant

Selma James slammed town hall bosses for axing six reading rooms in 2011

Cllr James Powney

Cllr James Powney - Credit: Archant

An author who was invited to speak in Kilburn in a drive to promote the council’s library service turned the discussion into an attack on it.

Selma James was invited to speak at Kilburn Library last night at an event billed as a chance to hear from her latest anthology.

However, a resident who attended the meeting claimed Ms James began the evening by attacking the council for their decision to close six libraries and gave the borough’s library campaigners a chance to speak.

It also gave them a chance to tell Cllr James Powney, lead member for environment and neighbourhoods at the council, who oversaw the library closures, about the impact the closures have had.

Sujata Aurora, who lives in Willesden and has been campaigning to keep Willeden Green Library, told the Times: “The first thing she [Selma James] said was that she had invited all the library campaigners and said a council had no business closing libraries.”

Selma James, originally from America but now living in Brent, was renowned for her involvement in radical politics.

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She previously commented that she supported libraries as “centres of learning.”

Ms Aurora added: “I don’t think he [Cllr Powney] expected it to turn out the way it did but at a talk in a library its perfectly natural to talk about the library closures as it is such a controversial matter. It was an interesting evening that covered a lot of issues but I am glad we were given the chance to speak.

“There was a lot of anger in the audience when they noticed Cllr Powney was there and he took a lot of criticism.

“He was quite sarcastic and I think that inflamed the audience – he clearly showed he wasn’t listening to what people were saying and instead just reeled off figures about how improved the service was.”

Cllr Powney said: “I was under the impression this was supposed to be a book reading but its very odd when an author comes and doesn’t talk about her book.

“She mentioned library closures but also spoke a range of issues that didn’t seem to have any relevance to the discussion such as apartheid South Africa.”

Cllr Powney added: “There were a couple of library campaigners there who made accusations against me and I took the opportunity to answer them. It was a very peculiar evening.”