West Hampstead Library is a vital community asset, sitting in the heart of West Hampstead.
It is about so much more than books. As well as lending books, it serves as a space for community groups, hosts IT facilities for those who do not have them at home, and has various other classes and activities for people of all ages. During elections it serves as a polling station. It is also an attractive building with a good presence on the West End Lane high street. Public libraries are among the last indoor spaces in West Hampstead – or indeed anywhere – where you can sit for free.
However, its future may be in jeopardy – and together with my fellow local councillors – we’re asking for the help of local residents to keep it open.
Because of central government cuts, which are halving Camden’s budget over eight years, Camden needs to cut £800,000 from its library services and it has not ruled out closures.
This coming Wednesday, a 12-week consultation will start on the future of Camden’s libraries. The council has specifically mentioned West Hampstead among the libraries that might be considered for closure.
A lot rests on the response to the consultation. If the public response is a big ‘no’ to closures, it will help them to discount that option.
Of coursse, in light of the current financial pressures, the council needs to look at creative ways to make savings and modernise the service. I don’t think enough work has been done to look at partnerships with local groups – or bringing in other services to share costs and make the library an even better community hub. Closure should not be an option.
The West Hampstead councillors have started a petition against closure, to give an early show of the strength of feeling. If you want to, you can sign it here. Within a couple of days, it has already got more than 200 signatures.
Some of the comments are really quite moving. They show just how much this place means to local people. We need to show the council the strength of local feeling on this and we call on all residents to help.
The campaign already has its own Twitter handle, @SaveWHamLibrary and a hashtag, #SaveWHampLibrary which interested people can follow for updates. (The missing ‘p’ in the handle is due to Twitter’s tight character restrictions.)
As councillors, we are calling on residents to fill out the consultation from Wednesday and urge Camden not to close West Hampstead library.