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Friday, 6 March 2015

In Praise of Brent Libraries

Around the UK, library services are under constant threat, with even decisions to "save" them regarded as temporary and partial.  In many cases, the decisions strike me as being made on grounds of political expediency rather than with a coherent idea of how the services should be developed over the next few years.

Controversial as it was, I am glad that Brent's Libraries Transformation Project took a different path. Getting the pain of restructuring and library closures out of the way in 2011/2012 paved the way for Brent Libraries success subsequently.  It also allowed the service to reroute resources to a more coherent vision of what a public library service should look like.

Visiting Kilburn Library recently, I was struck by a leaflet describing the activities in Brent Libraries.  They include: IT for beginners, English Conversation, Story & rhyme time, Homework Clubs, Children's Arts & Crafts, reading groups, knitting clubs, Writers' groups, the University of the Third Age, Dance and exercise groups, Chatterbooks, Connexions and other advice services and even Scrabble groups.  All that is happening in Brent libraries seven days a week.  As well as all this there are other regular or one off initiatives such as Black History Month, the Summer Reading Challenge, the Six Book Challenge, Brent Dance Month, Artist in residence schemes and so on.

That is on top of the regular business of lending about a million books a year, giving access to periodicals, free Wifi, numerous computer terminals and so on.

All this is under threat in other authorities which didn't take a strategic approach, but simply tried to keep buildings "open" until they close bit by bit. 

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