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Brought to Book

A North London library closed by council cuts has been re-opened... by squatters. Closed by Barnet council back in April after an eighteen month wrangle Friern Barnet library will open its doors again on Saturday (8th) between 11 and 3. Since the library closed local campaigners have been staging 'pop up' libraries on the village green outside.

SchNEWS spoke to long term local campaigner Rosie Canning - “I don't see them as squatters I see them as library occupants. We're willing to work with Barnet Council to re-open the library. Unfortunately we think that the reason they want to close this and another library in North Finchley is so that both buildings can be sold to developers. The alternative they are offering us is temporary library in the Arts Depot building a mile and a half away.

“The important thing to realise is that this is a purpose built library and an important building for the community. There is huge community support we had thousands who signed the petition to keep it open. The library is a hub and is integrated with local schools that are within walking distance.”

Council officials have offered the squatters alternative accomodation in the nearby Friary Park House, prompting one to remark “It's a shame more squatting disputes can't be resolved like this, instead of trying to bang us all up”


For more on saving the library.



Protest shortly after the library closed.
There is 1 comment on this story...
Added By: Anonymous - 11th September 2012 @ 6:10 PM
Good to see that people are still willing to fight/take action to defend what is, after all, ours. As an ex-librarian I couldn't be happier!

Last year out local city council- I live in Granada, Andalucia- closed down our local neighbourhood library, which had only come into existence in the first place, 20 years previously after a great campaign and struggle by local people, mainly women, it has to be said.

The councill had built another library acouple of years ago, arguing that the area needed two because of the size of its population and it promised that the original library would continue providing a service to that part of the district (which already lacked resources, especially cultural, educational ones, and now even more so).

After the grand opening/ photo opportunity in 2010 the new library remained closed for another 12 months! The old one continued to be very busy and popular as usual. Many children live in homes with no access to the internet and many do not even have a computer, so the library was an important after-school resource for them. quite apart from school visits and the wider contact with schools and their teachers in the area.

As I said earlier, last June the council finally opened the doors of the new library and promptly announced the closure, in October, of our library. It was going to be turned into some sort of "cultural centre, maybe, something like that anyway, er, we're not really sure". We immediately organised a meeting of our neighbourhood (barrio) Assembly, formed after the occupation of the squares 0n 15 May 2011.

That meeting decided to create a "platform" to fight the closure of the library. The local council cynically decided to bring forward the closure date to 1 August, just in time for the summer holidays. My neighbourhood is known for its fighting spirit, well, mainly the fighting spirits of the mothers, daughters and sisters of the district who, over three decades of struggle have created networks and collectives that have kept the social movements of this barrio alive.

About 70 to 80 people came to the first meeting of the Platform (more were to join over the next few months) and what followed was several months of intense activity; agit-theatre in the squares of the city- this wasn't just our loss it was a resource lost to all the city-, a people's library outside the library, symbolic occupation of the squre where the library is situated, poetry, music, and a long etc.

Some of these things can be seen here:

The library is still closed and the cultural centre never materialised.
The building was partly set on fire, the paint was peeling off and the local council had removed the lettering, Public Library.
However, on the first anniversary of its closure, members of the platform cleaned and painted the exterior walls and restored the public library sign. Its still our library. The sruggle continues.
Good luck in yours!

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Twitter: @SchNEWS