The future of the Library to be fought for in the Courts
Friern Barnet Library in London was re-opened by the local community and a small contingent of Occupy after it’s closure. Local residents formed Save Friern Barnet Library (SFBL) and the anti-cuts Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS) and had been fighting to stop its closure for over a year. It was eventually closed last April then re-opened this September.
Since it’s re-opening thousands of books have been donated and it has once again become a community hub. Discussion groups, reading groups and debates now feature regularly but the Library is once again under threat. The coming court case (10th October) will decide ultimately whether the building will remain open for all those who wish to utilize it.
The judge is going to be in a very tight situation, he or she will be faced with a decision to act justly or in accordance with the law. The Library supporters will have to convey a legal argument that shows clearly how the property is not the councils to sell. The council will declare themselves the legal property owners and we live in a land where property rights trump everything else. The unlikelihood of a precedent being set on the grounds of undemocratic processes that led to the libraries closure, or the fact that the austerity measures resulted because of illegal behavior of the banks making the cuts in themselves illegal would be the dream outcome. Such a precedent would provide a welcome tool for communities to stop the sell off of the peoples commonly owned assets.
The level of support that this community action has received has been astounding and as the government puts up England for sale it is clear that there is a growing consensus that it is not representative of many many people’s philosophy. After all the reason why we pay council tax is to enable these services. They create a shrine of knowledge for all to access and enquire and the council as custodians of the public assets is meant to reflect its will.
As for the Occupy movement the strengthening of community relationships and the self-empowerment that holding a space for a community so the public can utilize it in a manner they deem fitting is proving to be a positive progression for all. It is also good practice as the millionaire club cabinet announce further austerity measures. It is coming to a point where people have to come together in the open, re-establish the need for assembly and active community participation in fighting for the shrinking space available for public use.
The strength, ingenuity and determination that local communities have exhibited in the Save Friern Barnet Library and other campaigns such as the Save Leyton Marsh Campaign are proving to give inspiration to many, least of all Occupy.
“We the residents, students and workers, are petitioning Barnet Council to RE-OPEN our local library. Friern Barnet Library in its present place and shape is an integral part of community life in the surrounding area.
We want a cheerful local library. This is a chance for Barnet Council to show they ARE listening to local residents and reverse the bad feeling caused by the closure of this lovely library.”
The court case will be heard at 10am, 10th of October at St. Marys Court, Regents Park Road N3 1BQ.