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Monday, 22 February 2010

Harlesden Library Finally Re-opens

Harlesden Library is due to re-open in March. At least that is when they intend to hold the opening ceremony. The project has had a number of issues. It certainly wasn't supposed to take 19 months to refurbish the place. The closure of one of the Borough's main libraries during that period must have seen quite a downturn in usage.

The second big problem has been the shifting of the BACES operations across the road. People using BACES regard Harlesden Library as inferior as there is less space and no room for a creche. I have been told that the creche at BACES was underused, but the Council does have plans to replace it at a new site at Challenge House. Challenge House (opposite Harlesden Methodist Church) isn't ideal as the site for a creche, but they need to sell the existing BACES building on Craven Park Road to pay for the Harlesden Library refurbishment, so the loss of that building is irreversible.

There is no doubt that the Library Service in Brent is struggling at the moment, with Willesden Green Library Centre in trouble as well. It has lost its Cafe and now the Belle Vue cinema has closed, threatening the whole concept of using the Library Centre as a community hub, not just a stand alone library. Willesden is supposed to be our flagship library so its sorry state makes you wonder about the rest of the fleet.

Cricklewood Library, which has one of the lowest usage rates, was put forward as a combined library and Children's Centre. Again, this ties in with the "hub" concept. You group more than one attraction in the same place, and some of the footfall going to the Centre would rub off on the Library. However, this has hit a legal obstacle. The building was originally gifted by All Souls College in Oxford with a condition that it be used as a library. The College lawyers have queried whether combining a Children Centre and a library would break that condition. I understand that the Brent Council lawyers think it would be fine, but the two sets of lawyers need to agree a basis for going forward before progress can be made.

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