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Jan 16 2015

Open Letter to Harrow Council on Saving Bob Lawrence Library

library_computer_childDear Cabinet & Council Members,

Re: Bob Lawrence Library – Petition Against Closure

The consultation on the Future of Libraries in Harrow closes on 19th January 2015. The survey results will determine whether Bob Lawrence Library remains open. Thousands of residents, children, elderly & young parents across Harrow have signed a petition to SAVE Bob Lawrence Library on Mollison Way. More than just books and access to computers or the internet, libraries are still places where individuals gather to explore, interact, and imagine in a warm and safe environment.

During the Drop In session at the library a number of suggestions were discussed:

1. Relocation to Stag Lane School

Whilst we are pleased to note that the Council is willing to explore ways to retain the service, the suggestion is unworkable as there will be access issues as schools are restricted spaces.

2. Volunteer-led

In Edgware, one of the most deprived wards in the borough, librarians are an essential part of the support that people need in their library. The public sector Equality Duty (PSED) requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different people when carrying out their activities. With the high level of deprivation and poverty, a facility like Bob Lawrence Library is important in advancing equality of opportunity.

3. Redirecting residents to Kingsbury Library Plus or Burnt Oak Library

Budget cuts have affected the entire nation. Boroughs like Brent and Barnet are also evaluating areas of reduced cost / services. We understand that Barnet borough is considering the closure of Burnt Oak Library as part of their budget cuts. The Kingsbury Library is also extremely inaccessible and may not be a viable alternative to existing Bob Lawrence Library users.

Retaining the library at its present site offers the best way of addressing the needs of different communities and cultures, the needs of older residents, young & old teenagers, and the needs of mothers with young children. Closing Bob Lawrence Library would be extremely detrimental to our community and would depress the local economy as footfall to small businesses in both parades will reduce. Bob Lawrence Library Campaigners would like to work with you to ensure that the library can stay open with qualified librarian delivering a much needed service.

The community values the library for the following reasons:-

Education

1. Important resource that helps in child development: It’s an important partner in shaping our Children’s future. Through extensive collection of books, programs, and physical spaces, children learn to share, to be engaged in their communities, to participate in the arts, and to expand on their social skills. Bob Lawrence Library offers multiple programs, from Rhyme Time & Storytelling for toddlers to Language classes and other enrichment programs for older children.

2. Homework assistance and resources that impact students’ academic performance. Being one of the highest deprivation areas in Harrow, many of the children from the neighbouring schools do not have access to necessary resources at home. They just can’t afford to purchase curriculum books or personal computers. Bob Lawrence Library and its staff offer homework help, internet resources, online access and much needed quiet study space. These elements are to boost literacy level and achieve academic excellence.

Community Centre & Social Hub

1. Safe Space for Young People – rather than wander the streets aimlessly, young people have a place to go

2. Resources for non-English speakers. Bob Lawrence Library offers a large selection of books as well as programs in other languages representative of the community. In fact, a Gujurati Rhyme Time is held on Thursday’s every other week. A few of the staff members are multilingual. Services like these help all community members recognize the depth of diversity that exists in this community.

3. A place to connect with the community. New moms connect at rhyme time / story-times; elderly people connect with old friends and they make new friends; teenagers meet up after school; and readers discuss current events in the open spaces. At Bob Lawrence Library, community-building connections are happening all the time.

4. Important business resources, especially for small local businesses. Bob Lawrence Library sits in the middle of North Parade, Mollison Way. The shops in the area depend on the regular footfall of young mothers, youths, elderly and local residents who regularly visit the library. If the library is closed, people will transact in other locations and this will affect this fragile local economy.

The closure of Bob Lawrence Library will result in significant collateral damage across many sectors of our communities. The poorest and most vulnerable residents will be worst affected. Harrow Council has a statutory duty to ensure that it does not penalise protected groups by its actions. A full and comprehensive library service is of particular importance to our elderly, mothers with young children, school children, young people as well as people of different races and cultures.

We strongly urge Harrow’s Cabinet and Members of Council to take our collective feedback into account, as well as the strong support of over 5,000 concerned residents. We would like to keep Bob Lawrence Library open and retain it in Mollison Way as a Council funded resource.

Best Regards

THE BOB LAWRENCE LIBRARY CAMPAIGN TEAM

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