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Monday, 10 August 2015

The Saved Willesden Library Fragment

One of the most controversial aspects of the original plans for the new Willesden Library Centre was the proposal to demolish the last fragments of the former 1894 building (pictured above).  Such was the outcry that Brent Council went back to the drawing board to fit the old building into the new Library that has just opened

This is full of ironies.  The 1894 fragment had not actually been part of the 1980s Library Centre at all.  In fact it was operated as an office by the Brent Irish Advisory Service (BIAS), a small charity.  Therefore it was not a public building at all.  Contrary to many people's impressions, it was not wholly a building from 1894.  In fact, about half of it was built in the 1980s when the Victorian building was demolished.

It is now incorporated into the new Library as a sort of semi-detached room.  BIAS used it as a two storey building, but the upper floor has been taken out to give a high ceilinged room, as you can see here:

I gather that in public consultation, no one actually identified a use for it, which should perhaps lead people to think about what they want to do when they campaign to "save" something.  I think it could be used as a performance space for book readings and the like.  This would have the disadvantage of separating the book reading from the actual books in the library.  Given that one of the prime functions of having a book reading from the library perspective is to encourage the audience to borrow books, this is not ideal.  Conversely, the room's isolation behind closed doors means that noise would not carry into the library as it sometimes does at, say, Kilburn Library which would help give a more flexible range of timings.

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