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Saturday, 1 August 2015

WLWA Progresses Energy from Waste Plant

West London Waste Authority (WLWA) committed to diverting virtually all its waste from landfill back in 2013.  Instead the waste will go to an Energy from waste plant in the West of England.  It recently released an update.  This will be an even more dramatic change across the whole of waste management in West London, than the introduction of Alternate Weekly Collections which is now being imitated by Ealing

Friday, 31 July 2015

Martin Francis on the Former Preston Library

Martin Francis reports that the former Preston Library is going to be used for school places again.  This means that the group using it under temporary license will have to move out.  What I find odd about this is that the many problems of the Council just handing the building over to a group have been in the public domain for some time.  In particular, the notion of a peppercorn rent seems wholly unrealistic.

As an addendum, I see that the group gives a precise figure for usage in June, 663.  Measuring performance at volunteer libraries seems essential to me, and I regret that it is not done more often.  In public libraries, June tends to be an unusually good month, but if we assume that for the Preston establishment it is average that would give an annualised footfall of 7,956.  That might seem like a lot, but it demonstrates that a public library service such as Brent Libraries is operating on a totally different scale to the volunteer libraries that are sometimes suggested as their replacement. 

In 2014/15, the Brent library with the lowest footfall was Kingsbury, which had a footfall of 146,870, or 12,239 in an average month.  Brent's other libraries averaged much higher levels.  When people such as Ed Vaizey advocate volunteer libraries they really are suggesting replacing the public library service with something fundamentally different.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Library Opening Hours in Brent

I remarked in my post on the opening of Willesden Library that it has different opening hours to what became standard as part of the Libraries Transformation Project.  Brent Libraries are due for another review, although I doubt whether it will be as far reaching as the 2011 one.  It would be interesting to see the data as to whether a 9am opening is preferable to (say) the equivalent time in the evening.  I have also heard people argue that Sunday opening would be welcome.  Willesden Library is the only Brent library to open on Sunday mornings as opposed to Sunday afternoons, so it will be interesting to see how popular that is.  Incidentally, I wonder how many Council libraries in the UK still open on Sundays at all?

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Inside the New Willesden Library Centre

The new Willesden Library opened yesterday, and I must say it is even more spectacular than I imagined.  As you can see from my previous post, the exterior still has builders all round it, who will continue working on the housing that pays for the whole project for quite a while to come, but the inside is now functioning as a library. 

The library is on three floors with a central light well in the middle.  The light looks like this from the ground floor:

The ground floor is too big for a single picture.  Here is the part nearest Brondesbury Park:

Unlike the old Willesden Library, you can actually see out on to the street:

Looking more towards the back, you can see some of the ipads laid out:

When the builders finally depart, it will be possible to access the library from the rear as well as the front:

Now let's move up the stairs to the first floor:

The first floor is huge:

It has displays around the light well drawing on local history.  I suspect these are intended to draw you up to the new Brent Museum on the second floor. 

The second floor has yet more books, and yet more computers.  This how it looks at the back.  The windows face towards the housing.

As I was going round, one of the library staff started chatted to me.  She said that rebuilding the library had been the subject of some controversy, a fact of which I was aware.  I defy anyone who can remember the old Willesden Library Centre to say that the new one is not a huge improvement.  I shall probably do some more posts in a while, particularly on the new Museum and the exhibition spaces that have yet to open.  At the moment, I will just leave one last view of the light well:

Friday, 24 July 2015

What will be in the New Willesden Library Centre?

The new Willesden Library Centre opens on Monday morning.  Full details of the services available are here

Willesden Library Itself
Unlike other Brent libraries, Willesden is promised to open from 9am on week days (the rest open from 10am).  Closing time on each weekday is 8pm, which again gives it longer opening hours than most Brent libraries, which only open that time for two or three days a week.  Weekend opening is also slightly longer, with Willesden starting at 10am on Sundays, unlike Brent's other libraries which all open from noon on Sundays.

I assume that these opening hours are ones where the library is fully staffed i.e. not the situation where only self service is available in Wembley Library from 8am to 10am.  Whilst that is welcome, it is obviously not as good as having properly staffed opening hours.  

We are promised that the library will also feature:
  • the latest fiction, non-fiction and information for adults and children
  • comfortable furnishings
  • loan and reference books for adults and children in many languages including Tamil, Gujurati, Polish, Arabic, Urdu, French, Spanish and Portuguese
  • a spacious area for children and parents with books and reading space
  • 66 public computers
  • colour photocopier, printer and scanner
  • 14 iPads
  • over 120 study spaces in the main library
  • teen area
  • IT facilities and Wi-Fi
  • free online resources such as E-book downloads, E-magazines and learning courses
  • DVDs
  • audio books
  • newspapers and magazines
  • A series of public events of diverse kinds.  
As Well as The Library...
The new library centre will also host Brent Museum and archives as well as a gallery space with a number of exhibitions planned for the Summer.  The building will have a number of other spaces available for hire.  Unlike the old building, these have been designed to be suitable for performances (The old Willesden Centre spaces had such poor sound insulation that neighbours would complain).  The library also has a cafe, which is one of the features that makes Wembley Library such a success.  Finally, there are a number of self service kiosks for accessing Council services.

That is all an enormous step forward which only came about because we pursued the Libraries Transformation Project to a conclusion, and overcame the often spurious objections to the development. 

Monday, 20 July 2015

New Willesden Green Library Pictures

The new Willesden Green Library is opening on 27 July, as the last stage of the Libraries Transformation Project begun back in 2011.  I gather that copies of Go Set a Watchman have been ordered specially for the opening day.  The new library will have a capacity of around 40,000 books, which is even more than the refurbished Kilburn Library

I have mentioned before that the old Willesden Library had a terrible relationship with the surrounding area. The new area is still a building site, but looks much better in terms of interacting with its surroundings.

This is the remains of the former 1890s library that used to be on the site.  Actually, most of the building was reconstructed when the 1890s library was mostly demolished in the 1980s, so it ac6tually fairly modern.  Some think that keeping this 1890s style extension on to a modern building looks a bit odd, but there was undoubtedly great public demand for it to remain.

This is some of the new housing that pays for the new cultural centre.  It is seen from the Brondesbury Park side.

This is what some of the anti-library people described as the "canyon" between the new library centre (to the left) and the new housing to the right.  I think, that once all the building stuff is cleared away, it could be a nice public space.

This is a better view of the new housing as it looks on to the back of the library centre.

This is a view of the new library centre from the Grange Road side looking towards Willesden High Road. 

This is a full on view of the Grange Road side taken from the interim library in George Furness House showing more the detailing.  The 1980s library centre simply had a blank featureless wall here, which was visually so dull that I have been unable to find any photo of it for contrast.

Although it is still a bit difficult to visualise it at the moment because of all the builder's stuff still around, I think the new building should look really good.