Former council leader thanks Brent library campaigners on 10th anniversary of closures
- Credit: Archant
Ten years ago six highly valued community libraries in Brent were closed by Brent Council.
Paul Lorber, former Liberal Democrat council leader and library campaigner has paid tribute to the "hundreds of local volunteers" who have maintained the closed spaces and brought them back to the community.
Labour councillors closed public libraries in Barham Park, Cricklewood, Kensal Rise, Neasden, Preston and Tokyngton in October 2011, despite mass public opposition to the closures and a High Court battle.
Mr Lorber, who fought to reopen Barham Park Library in Harrow Road, said offers by local volunteers to run the threatened libraries free of charge and at no cost to the council "were turned down by the Labour leadership and the new Labour leader Cllr Muhammad Butt who just took over from Ann John before the doors were finally closed failed to intervene".
"Ten years later hardworking volunteers across Brent ensured that four community libraries - in Barham Park, Cricklewood, Kensal Rise and Preston are alive and kicking," he said.
"The community libraries are providing much needed community services beyond book lending and have become local hubs for their communities."
At Barham Community Library, where Paul Lorber is a Trustee, volunteers provide activities for children including story telling and rhyme, chess and arts & crafts, yoga, history talks, arts club and host a memory lounge for people with dementia and their carers.
Following a fierce eight year battle with the council, developers and a college at Oxford University, Kensal Rise Library in Bathurst Gardens reopened in 2019.
Yet to reopen but very nearly there after fighting its own battle is Cricklewood Library in Olive Road.
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Volunteers have book groups, Pilates and coffee mornings planned but continue to raise funds for the last finishing touches to its kitchen.
Preston Community Library, in Carlton Avenue East, was shortlisted for the Bookseller Library of the Year in 2019 and regularly puts on talks and shows films, but its future is at the mercy of a new development.
“We have proved the importance and value of community libraries in serving local people across Brent," said Mr Lorber.
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"Hundreds of local volunteers have done an amazing job over the past 10 years showing what a bit of hard work and commitment can achieve.”
Brent Council has been invited to comment.