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Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Willesden Library Learning from Brent Civic Centre

The new Willesden Library Centre is now up and running, although it is still just the Library and the rebuilt Brent Museum with a lot of building work continuing in the surroundings (see below).  This is not so different from the early period of Wembley Library which has subsequently become such a great success.  A period of snagging on big projects such as these is inevitable. 

I am glad to see that lessons seem to have been learnt from the early stages of the Civic Centre, with both water dispensers and signage installed from the beginning this time.  The example below is from the lift.  Nonetheless, I think a bit more will have to emerge.  For example, the customer service bit is far from obvious as you come in.  A friend of mine went all the way to the top and down again before finding it on the ground floor.

Many of the lessons from the Civic Centre seem quite slight.  For example, the early stages of Brent Civic Centre problems with light carpets being soiled.  The carpets in Willesden Library Centre are much darker, and I gather they are carpet tiles rather than carpets, which means that darkly stained areas can be more easily removed.  Similarly I understand that the chairs are easier to clean.

That might seem quite trivial, but it can make a big difference to library users.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Brent Council's Ongoing Employment Issues

Martin Francis' blog Wembley Matters, whilst often unfairly negative about Brent Council and openly politically partisan, has done a good service in highlighting concerns about certain employment practices in the Council.  These have largely centred on the Rosemarie Clark case.

His most recent posts highlight an extremely unusual semi-public statement by Cllr Butt on the issue.

In fact, he kind of problems that have been a concern to me since 2012, and in my view go well beyond the individuals concerned and damage the whole organisation.  It would be much less worrying if the Clarke case were indeed the only instance, but it is not.  I have mentioned these problems a number of times.  I think it is unlikely that the Council will be able to "move forward" as he puts it until these matters have been credibly and publicly investigated.  

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Registering to Vote in Brent

Letters are already going out in Brent to register to vote.  This is especially important as the register for this year will be used as the baseline for drawing up constituency boundaries.  More information about registering is to be found here

Saturday, 1 August 2015

WLWA Progresses Energy from Waste Plant

West London Waste Authority (WLWA) committed to diverting virtually all its waste from landfill back in 2013.  Instead the waste will go to an Energy from waste plant in the West of England.  It recently released an update.  This will be an even more dramatic change across the whole of waste management in West London, than the introduction of Alternate Weekly Collections which is now being imitated by Ealing

Friday, 31 July 2015

Martin Francis on the Former Preston Library

Martin Francis reports that the former Preston Library is going to be used for school places again.  This means that the group using it under temporary license will have to move out.  What I find odd about this is that the many problems of the Council just handing the building over to a group have been in the public domain for some time.  In particular, the notion of a peppercorn rent seems wholly unrealistic.

As an addendum, I see that the group gives a precise figure for usage in June, 663.  Measuring performance at volunteer libraries seems essential to me, and I regret that it is not done more often.  In public libraries, June tends to be an unusually good month, but if we assume that for the Preston establishment it is average that would give an annualised footfall of 7,956.  That might seem like a lot, but it demonstrates that a public library service such as Brent Libraries is operating on a totally different scale to the volunteer libraries that are sometimes suggested as their replacement. 

In 2014/15, the Brent library with the lowest footfall was Kingsbury, which had a footfall of 146,870, or 12,239 in an average month.  Brent's other libraries averaged much higher levels.  When people such as Ed Vaizey advocate volunteer libraries they really are suggesting replacing the public library service with something fundamentally different.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Library Opening Hours in Brent

I remarked in my post on the opening of Willesden Library that it has different opening hours to what became standard as part of the Libraries Transformation Project.  Brent Libraries are due for another review, although I doubt whether it will be as far reaching as the 2011 one.  It would be interesting to see the data as to whether a 9am opening is preferable to (say) the equivalent time in the evening.  I have also heard people argue that Sunday opening would be welcome.  Willesden Library is the only Brent library to open on Sunday mornings as opposed to Sunday afternoons, so it will be interesting to see how popular that is.  Incidentally, I wonder how many Council libraries in the UK still open on Sundays at all?