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Monday, 13 July 2015

Brent Council Library Closures

Public Libraries News has a rather gloomy prognosis that Council's that have already gone through a round of library cuts will soon see another.  For many this is true.  He cites the Isle of Wight and North Yorkshire, but there will be others coming up.

I doubt, however, whether we will see any actual closures in Brent (indeed Brent is just about to open the new library in Willesden). 

Although there is a new library strategy due to come forward for consultation soon, I would be very surprised if any closures result.  I know that library closures were put forward as an option in the last two years, but it was a paper option, which no one really considered seriously.  Indeed one of the unintended benefits of the furore surrounding the 2011 library proposals is that there is likely to be little enthusiasm for another round.

More subtly, the litigation in 2011/2012, also gives the Council a firmly defensible baseline.  The library needs of the Borough were assessed, according to the judge, "with rigour" and upheld as sensible.  The same settlement was put to the Secretary of State for overturning, only for the request to be rejected.  Of course, Brent Libraries can also now demonstrate a remarkable record of success under the same project. 

The danger now is not so much one of closures as the kind of hollowing out that I sought to avoid in 2011.  We have seen bits and pieces of this in Brent, most notably the cut in the book fund in this year's budget.  However, so far Brent libraries have retained crucial aspects like seven day opening.  The danger is that hours and other things will be reduced little by little in a way that attracts little publicity, but has a huge effect on the service. 

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