Friern Barnet Library handed over to local community

From Pheonix Rising:

On Tuesday 5th February, at midday, exactly five months since the occupation began, the community will take possession of the Friern Barnet Library. The local community – represented by the trustees of the library – are on the verge of agreeing a two-year lease with Barnet Council (LBB) to run the library with some funding from the council.

At the ceremony, squatters and supporters of the Occupy movemnet, who have been keeping the building open and enabling the local community to run a book lending service and community centre in the building, will hand it over to the trustees of the newly formed Friern Barnet Community Library (FBCL). They have now received a licence from LBB to be in the library for two weeks with the promise of renewal of the licence if necessary to negotiate a lease and other matters (eg, who pays the utilities insurance and ongoing future repairs). LBB has shown a willingness to amend the licence to their satisfaction.

“This is a triumph for the local community,” said, one of the trustees of the new community library. “Our library was closed in April. And we were told the building would be ‘marketed’. Now we have our library back, with council financial support. We achieved this through constant campaigning, lobbying, and building a broad alliance including squatters, activists, supporters of the Occupy movement, local residents and library campaign groups.

Housing and Squatting activist  Phoenix, stated: “This campaign definitely shows the success of direct action and  squatting. This is a seed of change. The whole country will soon be facing 80% of the rest of the cuts. They can take some inspiration from this direct action. We have collectively helped to save this library from the bulldozer and being sold off for development.We would like to see more arrangements between owners of the 1.4 million empty buildings in the UK and squatter/homeless and community groups ,rather than the criminalisation being carried out by this government under the new law.
A law we feel strongly is unjust,undemocratic and arbitry.”

“We want to make it clear that, the activists support  the National Libraries Campaign and that putting in place a paid librarian is a priority. I believe consensus has been reached with the community on this point. As it stands, the funding offered by the council does not cover a full time librarian, but as the two year lease is negotiated and plans go forward, this will be kept at the front of the conversation. The activists would like to say that we are strongly opposed to austerity and all the cuts, especially to the library service.”

“We are also heavily opposed to criminalising the homeless/squatters. The extreme right of the conservative party is seeking to make squatting non-residential building also illegal. This, if it was successful, would affect all our rights to protest by occupying/squatting space, and would make successful community squat occupations such as the library campaign ILLEGAL, thus further removing our rights to shelter and protest.”

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