An Open Letter to my Local Councillors on the Importance of Libraries:

Dear Councillors Hart, Gordon and Scannell,

My name is Nicole, and I am a lifelong Edgware resident. I write to you in the hope that you will consider my thoughts and feelings over the importance of libraries in our borough.

A bit about me: I am a children’s book author, and my first novel comes out with Andersen Press in April. I am also currently looking after the Save Barnet Libraries community on Facebook and Twitter.

I have been using Edgware Library for as long as I can remember. It is because of my passion for reading that I ended up doing a degree in English Literature, and a Masters in Creative Writing. My mother (also a lifelong Edgware resident who grew up near Broadfields) started taking me to the library as soon as I was able to read – if not before that, in order to encourage a love of reading and books. I fondly remember visiting the library at least once a week throughout my childhood, and borrowing books such as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and 101 Dalmatians. I borrowed all the Malory Towers books by Enid Blyton, and then as I got older, I ventured to the ‘adult’ side and started reading everything I could find on the science fiction shelf.

I’ll admit, I didn’t use the library as often throughout the later parts of my education. I found my school library adequate, and I was lucky to have some quiet study space at home when I was revising for my GCSEs and A Levels. But I always knew it was there, waiting for me, and in recent years I have found the library invaluable as my insatiable need for books continues.

Maybe libraries aren’t used in the same way today as they used to be. Certainly there is wider access to books and information via the internet and handheld e-readers. So here is what I see today whenever I stop by Edgware Library: I see mothers and toddlers socialising and having fun with reading groups and playtime, I see students in the study space (which is always PACKED) and I see less fortunate members of our community sitting reading papers, researching or using the computers. They may not be borrowing books as much (I’d argue that the quality of the stock isn’t as good as it used to be) but if anything the building is far busier than I remember it being when I visited as a child.

The library is a crucial public space. It is a place of democracy, of learning, and of information. If you have a question about anything, I can guarantee that the library will have an answer. Even today, you use the library space for your surgeries – where else would you hold them otherwise? What other free public space is there? If anything, I think we take our libraries for granted. Many people don’t realise how valuable they are for communities. They have become complacent, trusting that their libraries will aways be there. I wonder what will happen to our community when our libraries are gone… not necessarily straight away, but certainly in the future. What are the long term effects of not having a fully funded library in the community? Have you looked at that? Have you even considered it?

I urge you to consider this as you decide upon the fate of our library service in Barnet. The current propositions in the public consultation are hideous. Choosing one of the three options is currently a LOSE LOSE LOSE scenario. It seems that you are absolutely determined to decimate our service and ruin Barnet for the future. 540 sq ft is not adequate amount of space for a quality range of books, computer and technological services, chairs in which to sit and read, and a space for families and children to meet, play and learn. We want librarians and other specialists to be available whenever the library is open, not computers that can go wrong and make mistakes.

Please, think about the world you want your children and their children to grow up in. I agree that libraries need to evolve with the changing of our times and culture, but closing and shrinking them is not the answer. If anything, our libraries need better funding: for new books, for better computer services and for schemes and ideas that could help shape and educate the local population for the better.

Please note, that this is an open letter which will be appearing on my website nicoleburstein.com

I look forward to your response,

Yours sincerely,

Nicole Burstein