Pupils' exhibition on school fence in protest at library cuts

By Dave Speck in Local People

Pupils from Martin Primary School in East Finchley marked the last day of unrestricted access to their local library by creating an exhibition on the school fence adjoining the library. 

 The exhibition features more than 400 postcards designed by pupils explaining what the library means to them and their families.

Emily Burnham, member of the Save Barnet Libraries campaign said: “We wanted to find a means by which children’s voices could be heard directly. They are due to be impacted particularly severely by the cuts in staffed hours.”

Under new arrangements, anyone under the age of 15 will be barred from entering libraries during unstaffed hours unless accompanied by an adult.

The arrangements include a reduction in staff hours by more than two-thirds as well as the implementation of self-service IT equipment. At the same time, library space is being reduced because it is being rented out to other organisations in the community - under the plans which Barnet Council says will save more than £2 million per year.

But exhibition organiser Erini Rodis said: "When the library reopens with restricted access and staff cuts, it won’t feel like the safe and welcoming place it always was.

“I used to visit this library independently while growing up but now my own children won’t be allowed to enjoy it as I did. This is a shameful loss to our community, as well as to others across Barnet.”

Pupils have now written to Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Karen Bradley as well as local MP Mike Freer, asking for a meeting to hand over the postcards. It’s hoped the exhibition will be able to withstand the elements and continue until the library reopens in August 2017.

 

> Councillor Reuben Thompstone, who is responsible for libraries, said: “Following extensive consultation with our residents we have redesigned our library service to allow us to keep all 14 libraries open and give our residents increased access to their local library using technology extended opening hours.

“As the majority of our library costs went on staffing, we made the difficult decision to reduce staffed operating hours of our library buildings.

“During staffed hours, there is no change to the way children can access the library and children can make use of the new extended opening hours when accompanied by an adult.

“Over the next couple of weeks we will have helpers on hand during self-service opening hours to offer support if needed."

* Since the launch of Barnet’s new library plans on April 1, more than 500 library users have signed up at Chipping Barnet, Edgware and Colindale libraries to use the self-service opening technology which allows registered library members to use libraries outside of staffed times.

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