Fight to save library opened by Mark Twain

In the fourth instalment of our six-part library cuts series the Times looks at the campaign to save Kensal Rise reading room

It is a freezing Thursday evening and Kensal Rise library is bustling with people.

Threatened with closure by Brent Council as part of sweeping cuts worth �100 million, residents and self professed library lovers have packed into the Victorian reading room in Bathurst Gardens and vowed to fight ‘to the bitter end’ to save it.

Among those who have pledged their support to the campaign is Vicky Browning, who lives with her two sons and husband in Burrows Road, Kensal Green.

She said: “It is a very social place and a lovely environment for children. In a world where so much is done online, the social interaction children experience at libraries, and the physical joy of books, is really important.

“It would be a terrible shame if it is closed. Both my sons are avid readers who love books and a lot of that is due to our regular library trips.”

Her son, 8-year-old Felix, added: “I like looking for really cool books.”

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Kensal Rise Library is steeped in literary history. Donated to residents by All Souls’ College, Oxford, in 1896, it was opened four years later by the legendary American author Mark Twain, who was staying at nearby Dollis Hill House for the summer.

Twain had won international acclaim with his novel, Adventure of Huckleberry Finn, and donated the chairman of the library committee five of his personal books to contribute to the collection.

Since then it has cemented itself as a much loved cornerstone of the community.

Library goers have fought off proposals to close the reading room before. In 1988 residents occupied the building in a tense four day stand off with the council which eventually led to Brent Council scrapping plans to sell off the site.

Margaret Bailey, a member of the recently formed Committee Kensal Rise Library Users, was involved in this protest, and says that community anger this time round is running just as high.

She said: “There is a lot of anger and passion against this. One of the worst things you can do is remove a library. We are going to fight this all the way – certainly there is the will to occupy the building if we need to

“The council has a fight on its hands.”