Local Campaign Launched To Upgrade Chiswick Library

Community needs to get behind bid for funding says local councillor

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Councillors in Chiswick are making another bid to get Hounslow Council to allocate funding towards an upgrade of Chiswick Library. They also want the community to get behind them in their long-running campaign to have a refurbishment of the Dukes Avenue building.

Councillor John Todd has written to the Council on behalf of the nine Chiswick councillors, to ask that the Council consider £1million funding from its S106 budget of £25million. He pointed out that a new library is to be built in the new Hounslow Borough Civic centre at a cost of £3m.

Chiswick Library had lost out on a sum of £600,000 funding some years ago (which went towards Gunnersbury Park), he pointed out. Hounslow Council started a public consultation on its Leisure Policy this week.  

But local councillors also want the community in Chiswick to get behind them. The library is the second busiest in the borough. One suggestion is that a charity be set up to acquire the building - which was a gift to the people of Chiswick from the Sanderson family - but a major committment to fundraising would be required.

The discussion over Chiswick Libary's future, has been going on since at least 2002. Previous proposals, one of which was moving the library into the Barley Mow centre basement under a deal with owners Workspace, never came to fruition.

In June 2015, Marilyn Smith, Area Participation Officer, advised that she had not received any further information as to when the next consultation on the future of Chiswick Library would commence. Cllrs have repeatedly kept the issue of the Chiswick Library as a matter to be 'tracked' at the Chiswick Area Forum.

The Council's draft strategy for leisure servies makes reference to enhancing the digital and online service of libraries across the borough. It does not mention Chiswick Library specifically. The Leisure & Culture department is seeking to make cuts of £2.3 m this year which will affect services from parks to libraries.

Cllr Todd's letter to the Council states: "An allocation of funding to our library would revitalise a wonderful, well used asset. It has amongst other things, a vibrant children's library, a historical research centre and a large first floor area, which is, during the school year,  crammed with pupils studying intensely without supervision for their exams.

"Another adjacent  large room, which we offered to decorate at our cost, lies dormant. I know a number of community groups and others who could use this facility in an area devoid of community space", he said. The current and future importance of the library to the Chiswick community could not be understated.

A total of 338,676 people visited Chiswick Library in 2014/15, with an average of 123 visitors per hour of opening, according to research carried out by Hounslow Council.

The Chiswick Library building was given to the community by the Sanderson Family. In Carolyn Hammond's Brentford & Chiswick Local History Journal 8 (1999) , she writes that in 1897 "Chiswick Library was facing the worst crisis of its short life. Borrowers had to queue on the stairs leading to the lending library on the first floor to change their books, and readers wanting to look at the newspapers and magazines were crammed into two small rooms on the ground floor."

The Council wanted buy the house at the top of Duke’s Avenue which belonged to the Sanderson family, owners of the wallpaper factory next door, and erect public baths and a public library on the site but it was covenanted for housing.

However, in October 1897 in what was referred to as ‘one of the noblest gifts the parish had ever received’, Mr Arthur Sanderson wrote to the Council offering to ‘give our house, Number One Duke’s Avenue to the parish for use as a public library.' The gesture was , he believed, a fitting way to celebrate Queen Victoria's 60th Jubilee.

The Borough of Hounslow has eleven static libraries, a school library service, prison library service and a library-at-home service. However, though the service is believed to be "strongly valued" by the community, visitors to libraries in the borough have dropped in line with national trends. There were 1.4 million visitors to Hounslow libraries in the past year compared to 1.75 million visits during 2009-2010.

October 8, 2015