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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

CPZ Permits and Car Clubs

Speaking to a Kensal Green resident recently, I was delighted to learn that she had taken advantage of the option to give up your CPZ permit that we introduced when we converted CPZs to emission based bands.  When the ability to give up the permits was suggested, I was quite skeptical as to whether anyone would take it.  She is now using a car club membership, although she said that even there her usage was limited.  Shifting people away from cars is crucial to improving London's air quality.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Brent Home Library Services Up

During the debate about Brent's Library Transformation, one of the major concerns many people had was access for disabled people, although these feelings are not universal.  In all the Labour Party debates I take part in about how to respond to the Lib Dem/Tory cuts, it was generally agreed that protecting the most vulnerable is a key priority.

Of course, this doesn't get you much credit politically.  None of the housebound users of this service will be marching to the Town Hall in protest, because they are not capable of marching anywhere.  It is also true that the cost per user is probably higher than for library users in general.  However, I think that a civilised society distributes resources according to need rather than according to whoever can shout the loudest.

It is also worth mentioning that providing services to the disabled involves more than just the Home Library service.  It includes making sure all our libraries are properly disabled accessible, that at least some of the PCs have disability software and that there is a reasonable range of titles that people can access.  The improvement of the online offer is also important.

However, for people who are so severely disabled that they are housebound, the home library service is a vital link.  It also is an example of Brent using volunteers (which people complain we are against) as it involves volunteers driving round and bringing the books to people who cannot travel to the library themselves.  You can get an idea of the scope of the service via this link (including a short video).

That shows an increase of 401% since we decided to go ahead with the transformation in 2011.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Libraries and Bookselling

I see that e-lending trials have led to more book purchases.  Perhaps this strengthens the case for libraries as showrooms for publishers?

False Hopes of Local Democracy

I notice that Brent Liberal Democrats are making specious promises around democracy and accountability.  I find these unconvincing, because Brent Liberal Democrats have a long history of failing to attend meetings, allowing councillors to carry on living outside the Borough, and failing to participate fully in meetings even when they are there.  The current Liberal Democrat leader was Council Leader for four years, and made no significant changes, why should we believe he will change now?

Sunday, 13 April 2014

More than a Quarter of Brent Library Loans are Outside Libraries

I have remarked before that many of the book loans made from Brent libraries are not from actual buildings at all.  The pie chart below illustrates the point using 2013/14 data.


Non building loans account for more than a quarter of a million loans by Brent library service.  The actual break down of those loans is the second chart (below). 


It is noticeable that ebooks still only account for a small proportion of the total number of loans (about 1.1% of all Brent book loans), so the ebook revolution has a long time to wait.  The fact that such a high proportion of book loans happen outside the actual buildings strengthens my argument that library authorities should concentrate on services rather than buildings.


Again, the comment below seems to come from a mindset of entrenched hostility.  Certainly, one can point to a link between online renewals and loans from physical libraries.  My point is that if you ignore the non-building loans, you are ignoring a major element of book loans in Brent.

Remember the main alternative option for Brent Libraries (supported by many "library campaigners" at the time) was simply to cut opening hours, which is an option generally known as "hollowing out". I don't think, had we gone for that option, we would now see our numbers going up.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Air Quality Related Deaths

The Guardian has produced a data map of UK authorities showing air quality related deaths.  London comes off particularly badly. 

The Value of Visual Art Projects

At the Furness Pocket Park Mosaic launch last Saturday, I was speaking to one of the organisers who was emphasising the value of such art projects.  She was passionately in favour and, in speaking to me, preaching to the converted.

As well as the actual objects, many of these project have a big community involvement aspect which helps draw people together.  You can see some pictures of the Furness mosaic workshops here.  This was also true of the artwork in Tubbs Road Pocket Park.  The mosaics there (below) were down by children at Furness Primary School.

In the case of Tubbs Road Pocket Park, the bidding process to get the funding also helped bring the Junction Association together.

However, artwork can also portray a corporate message, as with the Hazel Road artwork below, where I managed to get funding to promote Fairtrade.

It can also be used to discourage graffiti, as at the Seneca recycling facility in Neasden, which is thought to be the longest stretch of mural art in Europe.

Temporary Arts projects can draw attention to changes in the area as with the art on the hoardings outside Willesden Library.

Art projects really should be seen as more than just an add on.  They create much more value than they cost.

Friday, 11 April 2014

BBC Panorama on Brent Benefits

I watched the BBC Panorama programme on the effect of the benefit changes in Brent.  I thought it did a good job of showing the effect on the claimants and the efforts that Council officers are trying to make to help them.  Of course, anyone with experience of this kind of casework knows that a lot of the time it is a choice between a tough option, and an even tougher option.  I still prefer the practical help that Council officers were implementing in the film to the Loony Left alternative

Willesden Library Still Brent's Second Biggest Library

Following my posting of a couple of days ago, I thought the split of visits to Brent libraries might be of interest.

Wembley Library is now Brent's biggest library, and I suspect that it will feature in CIFPA's list of the top twenty libraries in the country fairly soon.  Many people will be surprised that Willesden Library is still our second biggest library by visits, given that it is operating an interim service during the building period.  Indeed, I have met people who believe our political opponents who have given the impression that Willesden Library is simply closed.