Some of us who had hoped that when North Kensington Library in Ladbroke Grove, was saved, that this would be an end to any council plans for closures of our local libraries for good, have been surprised that RBKC have recently decided to hold a public consultation on the future of Kensal Library in North Kensington.
THINKers ourselves do not use Kensal Library nearly as much as we do North Kensington Library – our nearest – or Kensington Central – the biggest; but that is not the point:
Some residents who are regular users of Kensal Library in Golborne Road have expressed their concerns. One young family told us that they live near Kensal Library and go there regularly, that it is great for activities for young children, and that they do not have the time to always travel on the bus further south.
Another resident pointed out that Kensal Library is wheelchair accessible when some of the other libraries in our borough still fully aren’t.
But RBKC ‘s consultation is doing this by a general borough survey which asks residents all over the borough how often they use use Kensal Library, so we fear the result of this will able closure as most outside North Kensington will not be users of (and some may have not even have heard of ) Kensal Library .
And that again misses the point; that being that our borough is diverse and various different Libraries are used in many different ways by our different residents with various different backgrounds, lifestyles and needs and that this big general survey across the entire borough will only end up ignoring the needs of the residents living close to Kensal Library – including quite a lot of North Kensington’s most vulnerable residents.
(We have put a link to the survey at the end as we suggest that others read this post in full first before responding. )
Kensal Library is also historically and culturally significant to North Kensington as this is where the archives for Kelso Cochrane, an innocent black Antiguan resident who was stabbed to death in a racist attack by white youths in 1959, right around the corner in Southam Street are kept. (And our readers can see more about the background , racial community tensions in 1950s North Kensington, and the legacy after Kelso’s unsolved murder at these links :
Back to the survey and here is more of what the council says in their consultation :
“The Libraries and Archives Service at Kensington and Chelsea is taking steps to improve and develop its offer, with a focus on the usage of Kensal Library. The Council is now beginning the conversation with local people and users of Kensal Library to hear their views on how the library could be improved, specifically around how a local community or voluntary group could partner with the Council to expand the offer available at the library. Our ‘social investment’ policy aims to ensure that we use our local resources – including library buildings – to provide the maximum benefit for our communities. We want to continue to provide a high-quality service and meet our responsibilities as a Council service, to contribute to the priorities and commitments to local residents.“
Cllr Pat Mason, Leader of the RBKC Labour Group and one of the local Golborne councillors told us that RBKC had sought to close the Library and that the community with the local Golborne Labour councillors had successfully fought against tbis 10 years ago.
RBKC do keep saying how much they have changed, but the then councillor who first suggested that Kensal Library should be run by volunteers was none other than disgraced former RBKC Deputy Leader Rock Feilding-Mellen. So it’s not unreasonable for some residents to wonder who does keep putting tbis on the agenda, the motives, and if other local libraries in the borough will be safe in time to come.
Many of our local libraries will have been closed due to Covid-19 but our residents do look forward to times when they will be able to use then again . Libraries are not just about books, they are valuable free places of learning, activities, media resources, archives – real community hubs. We do understand that in these difficult times RBKC will be looking for places to make savings and cut costs, but closing Kensal Library will be a slap in the face to North Kensington . Closing this library – or any other library – will be an act of depriving reaidents of valued community space and free resources and services. We need them.
We ask RBKC to think again
Here is the consultation survey – which closes on February the 21st: