The Chairman’s Report by Susan Chinn was presented in two parts:
HLAG’s main job is supporting the library. In 2016-7 we have done this two ways.First: we have ensured a new generation of library users by supporting activities for children –Sing and Rhyme, the Pumpkin Party, and the Garden Party –-and by donating books and requesting them.
Second: we joined the other library Friends groups in FORE (Friends of Reading and Education) to fight — successfully — against the proposed £150,000 of cuts to the library service.
We have committed ourselves to supporting the staff in whatever they do and we praise them for keeping a steady feeling of calm and welcome in the face of changes in status and service.
Many thanks to our committee, whose members often have other commitments of family and work, have given time and energy to our projects.
A discussion of the Future
At the end of March –just 8 weeks ago—Sarah Wrightson and I were called to a meeting at Jacksons Lane Arts Centre. We were then told of the idea of moving the library across the road to join the theatre and cultural activities in the Jacksons Lane building.
At that point we had three choices:
- to declare that we would be totally opposed
- to let Jacksons Lane and Haringey meet and discuss without us
- to join in discussions about the feasibility of the project
We decided to talk.
In the subsequent publicity announcement from Haringey, HLAG was presented as one of the three groups behind this project, and this has meant that many people think we originated it. This is not true. The idea came from the Jacksons Lane Trustees who presented it to the Council (owners of the building) who thought it was a great idea and enthusiastically agreed. However they knew, because of HLAG’s long history of interference in anything speculative or perilous to do with the library, that we had to be included in the discussions. So, sensibly, we were invited.
It was explained to us that this opportunity to create “an exciting new community arts and culture hub…with new and upgraded library services..” came about because of the need for Haringey to contribute to the capital refurbishment of the Centre. The eventual sale of the library site would provide the funding needed.
From this intital suggestion onwards, HLAG has been taking a full part in all meetings and discussions, putting the library and the needs of the Library Service (as well as those of Jacksons Lane) into place. We used the abilities of our committee members (architects and surveyors) to make initial measurements of our space and suggested research into what might exist as lost space under the building . We provided a wide approach to the proposition, asking how a free public service could work in a commercial space.
This does NOT mean that we have automatically supported the proposal. This does NOT mean that we have wanted to lose our beloved building. This does NOT mean we have made it easy for anyone. It means that we have ALWAYS asked if the aim of matching the library space in this building in Jacksons Lane could be achieved. It means that we have facilitated the most wide-ranging approach to the project .
We have also considered the problem of where- -and in what state– the library will be in five years. In a time of increasing threats to library funding, staffing, premises, even existence, it is always best to carefully and constructively consider all strategic options.
In doing so we have always had in mind the unique position of Haringey in North London (and indeed in the country as a whole) as a council that has kept all its libraries. But with each passing year in this austerity cycle, the financial support for the Library Service has dropped until it is nearly at unsustainable levels. In the next few years the branch libraries may be forced to close. The sale of Highgate Library might then become inevitable in the eyes of the council’s Finance Director. Should we be taking this into consideration as supporters of the library? If our library is to survive, is it to be an all-or-nothing scenario of this library in this building?
Following this speech, there was a full and frank open discussion about many of the complex issues surrounding this proposed joint enterprise. Cllr Claire Kober, leader of the Council spoke on the council’s point of view (noting that the two organisations would have separate funding) as did Cllr. Jason Arthur and Trustees of Jacksons Lane. The Architect for the feasibility study, Katy Marks of the Citizens Design Bureau, explained the reasoning behind it, the difficulties and the possible solutions.
There were many objections both in principle and in method to the project and to the way in which the feasibility study had been arranged. Leaders behind the petition against the project spoke forcefully of their view that the library should remain intact and on site. Financial constraints were a major concern and the position of public services (especially libraries ) under future auterity restrictions.
At the conclusion of the meeting, a show of hands supported the proposition that the meeting had been informative and useful and that the decision to continue to be part of the discussions was correct.
The next public meeting of the feasibility study would be held on 22nd June all day at the library and in the afternoon at Jacksons Lane for tours of the space. All were urged to come and present their views.