Tonight's Brent Council Cabinet has an interesting paper on town centres. It touches on various themes that will be familiar to anybody who has thought about this subject _ smarter cities technologies, driverless cars, the importance of securing a town centre as a destination, the public realm and so on.
It also suggests bringing back Town Centre Managers, which Brent cut in 2011. Once again I am struck by the change in policy not being linked to any particular rationale. Do people on the Council disagree with the old policy, have they critiqued it or have they simply forgotten about it?
The other thing that strikes me is how this document appears to have been drawn up without thinking about libraries policy. Following the Brent Libraries Transformation Project all Brent libraries are in Town Centres. They are obvious places to base the Council's activities from. The report mentions "cultural activities" as well as digital inclusion and public health. These are all areas where it is widely claimed that libraries can and should play a leading role.
In particular, the document speaks of "work space" in terms of meanwhile uses, but omits mention of the possible use of places like Willesden Green Library Centre for this. This is despite its previous use in the Library Lab project, the known benefits of co-location, its rather obvious provision of large numbers of computers and free WiFi, its existing use as a community hub and its established use for various training and educational activities.
For example, the report rightly points to a worry that 67% of businesses in Wembley are not online, well above the national average. In the days of the wireless Internet that becomes ever more important, as shoppers may use their iphone to direct their shopping. Why not use Brent libraries for courses in how Brent shops can advertise themselves digitally? The shops are near the library, the IT equipment is in the library and the libraries service have the connections to find instructors. It would all fall under one of the strnads of the SCL "universal offer".