New chapters for community libraries

Thursday, 1st August 2013

Members of the Belsize Community Library committee

Published: 01 August, 2013

THE next JK Rowling could spring from the desks of the Belsize Community Library after it was announced that aspiring writers will be offered space on an extra four days a week.

The Harry Potter author famously wrote her best-sellers from a table in her favourite café – and now the Belsize Library hope a new scheme offering work areas and plenty of good coffee will attract people to use the library.

The plans include opening on Saturdays and having extra days during the week.

Paul Perkins, a director at The Winch community organisation which saved the library from closure last year when the Town Hall decided it could no longer afford to run it, said: “It is great to maintain the library’s book-lending service, but it is still a loss-making set-up, so we have decided to pilot other uses for the building, too.”

The library in Antrim Road has been redesigned to make the most of its classic early 20th-century design and a coffee shop has opened inside for thirsty workers.

Mr Perkins said: “The space is lovely and has a really nice atmosphere. We can imagine all sorts of people using it: it could make a great home for writers, freelancers, people who normally work from home, and small organisations.”

The Belsize Community Library was joined this week by the Town Hall-run Highgate Library in revealing new ways to raise funds to keep the facilities open.

The Friends of Highgate Library have been in talks with Camden Council to see what they can do to counter the effect of swingeing cuts. A children’s library – used for many years as a book store for the borough’s mobile library service – has been taken over by the friends group and they plan now to use it as a community space.

At the launch on Monday, Friends president, actor Roger Lloyd Pack, cut a ribbon as the group gathered raised a toast to Burt Humberstone, Enid Evans and Edith Morgan – three members of their group who worked tirelessly to protect library services in the area but who have now passed away.

Mr Lloyd Pack said: “We have been struggling to protect our libraries over the years. Each year it feels like the council chips away at something, and people who love libraries and recognise their importance have to step in to protect services.

“This is like a phoenix from the flames of the cuts – the children’s library is a great space for people to use and will also help keep our library open. We are saving something from the wreckage.”

Friends treasurer Linda Lefevre said: “We want to see the space used for everything, from art exhibitions to poetry readings, musical performances and workshops, rehearsal space, activities for children, meetings for civic groups and perhaps lectures for the University of the Third Age.”

The space will be open for hire from September.

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