The success of the new Wembley Library, Brent's first new library for twenty five years, causes me to reflect on how hard it was to achieve. One of the striking things about the controversy over libraries was the deep seated hostility to change, even when it was obviously beneficial.
I have blogged before on Paul Lorber's numerous reversals of policy on the subject. However I didn't mention that he actually proposed scaling back or perhaps entirely removing the new Library in Wembley in a letter to the then Chief Executive.
After criticising the new Wembley Library for being bigger and better than the old Town Hall Library, he goes on to say that:
"It is clear to me that the smaller local libraries are being sacrificed to fund the new and substantially larger Civic Centre Library which for many years will not be situated in a residential area and which will require a journey to get to.
This is not an approach that my group can support. If existing libraries are under threat of closure then the size and capital and revenue cost of the proposed Civic Centre Library must be substantially scaled down.
The Civic Centre Library must therefore make a contribution towards the £1 million revenue savings target being set for the libraries by substantially scaling down the new library proposed for the Civic Centre both in terms of revenue and capital costs."
I find the psychology at work here interesting. Of course, had we followed this course, it would almost certainly have cost money rather than saving it. The architects could have done a redesign, and the contractor rescheduled the building works, but they would no doubt have asked for compensation for the extra work involved. Assuming the Civic Centre building remains the same size, I am not sure there would have been any saving in the overall running cost, we would have ended up with a much worse library.
More seriously, Cllr Lorber appears to be objecting to the very quality of the library, which we now know is one of its great attractions. Granted, he made the unwarranted assumption that people would not travel to the Wembley Library, which we now know to be untrue.
At roughly the same time I recall him suggesting that Kilburn Library should be closed so I suppose one should not be surprised that headlines seem more important than reality.