A beautiful letter has been sent to the relevant Government ministers and Brent councillors regarding the closure of Kensal Rise Library.  I reprint it here in full and would suggest everyone has a read.  The Director of Communications at the Mark Twain House and Museum sounds like quite a character:

“Dear Secretary Hunt, Minister Vaizey and Brent Council Members,Good morning! I would like to grab a moment of your time and some brief attention as you hurriedly prepare for the arrival of the Olympians this Summer. Stateside, we are all very excited to see how you celebrate this monumental event! There is great anticipation for the Olympics as it is a wonderful opportunity for the world to come together in the spirit of competition and excellence. It is, of course, also an opportunity for you to showcase the assets of your great city.

One of the assets of any city, any culture or any society great is its repository of knowledge. Mark Twain, the man we honor here at his home in Hartford, CT, USA, knew this when he said:

“A public library is the most enduring of memorials, the trustiest monument for the preservation of an event or a name or an affection; for it, and it only, is respected by wars and revolutions, and survives them.”

The one thing Twain might not have anticipated a library having to survive is our current economy. Another of his wonderful quotes:

“The lack of money is the root of all evil.”

I understand, due to tight budget constraints, you have had to close or are considering closure of several libraries in the Brent borough of London. This may seem necessary to bring shortfalls in budget in line. Being an American, I may not know the difference between a chip and a crisp or a loo and a lift, but I do know that closing a library is an Olympian decision where everyone loses. We all know that libraries are important, vital and essential to the livelihood of a community, especially a financially challenged one.

In 1900, Mark Twain on a visit to Dollis Hill attended the opening and dedication of your historic Kensal Rise Library. It is dismaying to hear of its closure, but the reason is not so surprising. Twain, in a way, anticipated it at its opening:

“If the community is anxious to have a reading-room it would put its hand in its pocket and bring out the penny tax. I think it a proof of the healthy, moral, financial, and mental condition of the community if it taxes itself for its mental food.”

I would heartily encourage you in your decision-making roles to reconsider the closure of libraries and find the means to reopen ones like Kensal Rise that may have already found themselves on the chopping block. What you are losing in a library cannot be replaced in a community. You are leaving a legacy, much as Twain left a legacy of 5 books when he helped dedicate Kensal Rise’s library. I pledge, on behalf of The Mark Twain House & Museum, to personally come over to Kensal Rise with another 5 books to donate at the rededication of this irreplaceable institution. Looking at the Brent Council website, I can see that you are all incredibly attractive. On top of that, you are incredibly diverse. I hope that in your diversity you can find unity of purpose to make sure that you nourish your community with, as Twain called it, “mental food.”

I wish you the best with your Olympic preparations and hope you can clear the hurdles to return your libraries to full operations.

Jacques Lamarre
Director of Communications
The Mark Twain House & Museum



  • 100 best blogs for school librarians – Online College.  “School librarians have much more on their plates than just managing books, often spending a great deal of time educating students and teachers, learning about and implementing new technology, and reading up on the latest new releases for young adults and children. It can be a lot to keep up with, but luckily other librarians are sharing their wisdom, experience, and expertise via the web. We’ve brought together 100 excellent blogs written by teachers, librarians, tech experts, and book lovers that can act as amazing resources for any school librarian.”
  • Adventureland Golf Jonathan Allen.  More pictures of the Crazy Golf Closed Library along with other pictures on the course, including Adolf Hitler (!).
  • Information literacy and lifelong learning not just necessary, but basic human rights – CILIP.   “At a recent CILIP Council meeting, it was decided unanimously that CILIP would endorse UNESCO, International Federation of Library Associations and National Forum on Information Literacy’s Alexandria Proclamation which states that Information Literacy and lifelong learning “empowers people in all walks of life to seek, evaluate, use and create information effectively to achieve their personal, social, occupational and educational goals. It is a basic human right in a digital world and promotes social inclusion of all nations.””
  • Libraries of the future – MakerBot.   “Man, a trip to the library really isn’t what it used to be. Now they have MakerBots and you can Make things with your library card. These spaces are going to quickly become the go-to’s for getting started in Making stuff; like, your librarian’s going to say things like “wow, sweet overhangs.” In other words, the future’s bright.”  About ten US libraries are listed as having 3D printers.
  • Terrifying world of children’s fiction – Voices for the Library.  Jess Haigh argues against a recent suggestion that children’s books be age certified.  “What needs to happen, what really needs to happen, is for the ludicrousy of this scheme to get more publicity, but also for library campaigners to jump on it. This is why you need qualified, motivated people in the schools who read and love and know the books, who can recommend accordingly, who know how to sensitively and not patronisingly steer away from the triggers, who will not compromise on freedom of speech but will recommend and lend wisely. Also know as, you guessed it, Librarians. Not one single political party supports A Librarian For Every School.”
  • This is all about cultivating creativity and passion in children – Herald Scotland.   “In amongst the Mills and Boons, surrounded by well-read westerns and tales of true crime, the tiny village library in Blackridge, West Lothian, used to have a disproportionately high number of science and technology books.”


Local news

  • Brent – Libraries see upsurge in members – Net Lettings. “More than 4,000 people have signed up to Brent’s libraries in the past three months. This is partly due to the decision by Brent Council to make the service open seven days a week. It means there are now 62,478 active users – defined as someone who borrowed a book, CD, DVD or has used a computer or online resource in the past 12 months …  Part of the reason for the increase in numbers is the Every Brent Child a Reader campaign, which has seen schools in the area encouraged to sign up pupils to a specific site.”

    “No one I know in the Upper Norwood Library Campaign or community is entertaining the poss of volunteers.” Croydon/Lambeth – Tweet contradicts council view reported yesterday.

  • Doncaster – Save Doncaster Libraries letter – Alan Gibbons. “It is with resigned sadness that I read the letter from Mr Field last week asking why the unnamed claimant whose case has resulted in Save Doncaster Libraries being granted a Judicial Review over Mayor Davies systematic destruction of Doncaster Libraries, a claim which His Honour Judge Gosnell stated “is clearly arguable”, believes this to be a waste of taxpayers money. Does this mean an electorate should never ensure governance appropriately and correctly, nor fight where the opposite occurs, to save ‘the taxpayers money’? …”
  • Gloucestershire – Is Gloucestershire County Council giving unlawful advice to community libraries? – Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries.  “Having been challenged by the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries as to whether Public Lending Right, the scheme by which authors are paid for books lent from public libraries, is to apply to non-statutory volunteer run and funded community libraries in the county, head of libraries, Sue Laurence has now replied that PLR will apply (email 5 July 2012). This, however, directly contradicts advice from PLR itself which states that “PLR would only NOT apply were a library branch to be closed by the local authority and reopened under new management by a voluntary or other group entirely independent of the local authority”.”
  • Hampshire – Mobile libraries face cutbacks – Southern Daily Echo. “The county council said that 40 stops are currently under-used, including ones in Eastleigh, the New Forest, Test Valley and Winchester.  They have on average fewer than two customers – in some cases none at all – and a total of 28 customers using the 40 stops when they visit every four weeks.”… “The council launched a streamlined mobile library service last year following public consultation in order to save more than £500,000 a year but said it would review the service a year on.”
  • Hull – City’s mobile library set to undergo facelift – This is Hull and East Riding.   “The city council’s mobile library is being taken out of service this week for a facelift. It will be out of use from Thursday and will be back on the roads on August 1. During the break, the vehicle will have its bodywork repainted, the interior floor tiles replaced and a valet of the interior and exterior of the vehicle.”
  • Lambeth – Waterloo Library prefab “unacceptable” in 21st century – London SE1. “”We’ve set a very modest aspiration of intending to move the Waterloo Library – which has been in a Portakabin for the best part of 30 to 40 years – into an actual proper building,” said Cllr Sally Prentice, the borough’s cabinet member for culture, at Monday night’s cabinet meeting in Lambeth Town Hall.”

“One of the key themes of the consultation was that residents of Lambeth wanted a professionally led library service,” she said. “The library which I used a child, which is run by Oxfordshire County Council, is now run exclusively by volunteers. Here in Lambeth that is not a direction of travel that we want to go to. The challenge that faces us … is to use the new budgets and the space in the libraries to bring in other organisations that are complementary to the library’s core purpose to generate income that will help us to maintain the buildings, to have the facilities open for longer hours and using modern technology.”

  • Lancashire – East Lancashire libraries set for £1m new chapter – This is Lancashire.  “New homes need to be found for two libraries in Burnley and Pendle, according to service bosses. Around £1million has been earmarked for library regeneration for 2012-13 – with an additional £250,000 left over from last year’s budget. Poor conditions at Earby, say officials, including a lack of community space, meeting rooms and public toilets, signal the need for a replacement for the venue at Coronation Hall, Cemetery Road. Rosegrove presents a similar story, with a lack of disabled access one of the key reasons behind the hunt for alternative premises.
  • Northamptonshire – Schools don’t need libraries now? Emma Woodcock.   “I was given a tour, and dropped into the library (Wootton Fields) to donate a couple of copies of Darklands.It’s an excellent, large, well stocked library, serving both the school and the public. Whilst chatting to the librarians it transpired that they are under notice of being closed down within a couple of months, as a cost saving exercise. The large book stock will be replaced by a temporary mobile library. Really? This is what the council wants to save money on? One large library serving the public, a secondary school and a primary school? Which was shortlisted for Library of the Year by the Bookseller Industry Awards 2012? Which as well as the usual library services also provides many events and activities throughout the year?”
    • Library switch would save £75,000 but protestors will voice their concern tonight – Northampton Chronicle.  “The authority is planning to move Wootton Fields Library out of Caroline Chisholm School as it would free it from Private Finance Initiative deal costing £150,000 a year. It plans to move the library to a unit at Wootton Community and Sports Centre in Curtlee Hill while it looks at the possibility of a permanent site.”

“Wootton Fields is run by a private company and we just pay the bill. We may have to close another one if we don’t do anything about this … This is not a library closure, it is a relocation. It is a wonderful building and it is a waste to leave but we have got to cut our losses … Cllr Smith said: “There have been a few high-profile people who have written to me but they are under the impression the library is closing. They have been misled.””

  • Surrey – A reasonable compromise between residents and the council must be found – Surrey Libraries Action Movement.On the 24th July Surrey County Council Cabinet is due to reconsider plans to remove staff from ten libraries across Surrey and replace them with volunteers … we don’t think it is in anyone’s interest for us still to be arguing over the libraries policy in another year’s time. We have, therefore, written a letter to council leader, David Hodge, proposing a compromise that will enable all parties to move forward.”
  • Wirral – Moulding the animators of tomorrow – Wirral Council (press release).    “Wirral Council is offering budding animators the chance to sign up for a day’s session of clay-mation at one of the borough’s libraries.”