The "White Elephant" line is just untrue. It is reasonable to call it a prestigious development, from the same architectural practice that has just produced New Scotland Yard. Yet it is cheaper to run than the old building, and was always designed as self financing. In other words, the sale of housing at the back paid for the nice new building at the front in a similar way to Clapham Library.
It is also worth remembering what the old Willesden Library was actually like. Here is a description form November 2009 by the "Willesden Herald":
Friday, November 20, 2009
Willesden Library Centre: Filth and dereliction in Brent
Sounds disgusting doesn't it?
Both the cafe and the cinema ceased to operate long before the building was demolished, and it really had a rather run down look. The commercial failure of the old building had a lot to do with its dead frontage, which contrasts with the new shared space outside the building (more images here).