Friern Barnet Library celebrated its eightieth birthday with eminent guest speakers and the local community.
We felt it was important to write something about the day, we all really had a great time and enjoyed seeing so many people that had helped to make this library and the guest speakers made everyone feel that something truly special had taken place here in Friern Barnet.
Joanne Fryer warmed up the crowd with a quick literary quiz with chocolates liberally thrown into the crowds. Katie Sallinger opened the proceedings and kindly read out an unexpected letter of support about our library from acclaimed children’s writer Jacqueline Wilson. She then handed over the introductions to Fiona Cochrane who eloquently introduced the guest speakers.
The library opened its doors 80 years ago to the community on 23rd March 1934. It was with great relief that we could still stand inside its now historic architectural wander to mark the day and celebrate the important role of libraries in society.
And despite a gallant effort for over a year against Barnet council; with record numbers of submissions from Friern Barnet residents against the proposed libraries strategies review, questions at council meetings, public debates, community proposals submitted by a local residents campaign group called ‘Save Friern Barnet Library Group’ (SFBLG) that also submitted evidence to parliament against library closures (LIB085), media attention, referrals back to the main council meetings from the scrutiny committee and despite postponing the decision on two separate occasions, the hammer carried a vote to close it.
Weeks later, post closure, post pop up libraries outside, the Occupy group squatted inside and attracted even more media attention and re-negotiated along with the community’s support, re-opened a community lead library.
Although the preferred outcome was for it to return as a public library service, it was the best of our only options left.
Thanks to the community, all the supporters, the occupy group and a willingness to open up negotiations from Barnet council, the library would probably be closed today. Now it is run as a volunteer library, lead by a group of Trustees and many volunteers, generously offering their skills and knowledge to help make the library serve its community. It was recently awarded charitable status and grants to help support costs. There have been some difficulties; not enough volunteers, confusion of times, lead stolen from the roof, a new boiler, and repairs. But overall, the community has stuck together, pulled through the difficulties with a smile and still delivered a library for the community of Friern Barnet.
Blogs and blogging featured largely in the libraries survival in Barnet and it would be remiss not to mention and cite some of their work in supporting the library, and yes Mr Mustard was also present but busy discussing car parking penalty fines. Here Mrs. Angry gives us her take on the day from her blog BrokenBarnet. She writes that: No kindle or website can ever replace the feel of a book, the smell of it; the touch of the paper, the presence of the book beside your bed, or on a shelf in the library, inviting you to read it, and enter new realms of imagination, and confront new ideas, and words, and more words, the colour and rhythm of which rearranges your own way of writing forever, and shapes the way you think.