Friends say radical change is required for library

Shirley Hadi, the Chair of Friends of Chiswick Library, says that there are more options that the current Workspace plan and closure

While negotiations between the Council and Workspace go on behind shut doors, the public debate about the future of Chiswick Library is fuelled by alarmism: At its most extreme, it is claimed that either we accept Workspace's original design or the library is closed ­ there is no alternative. Have what you are
told or nothing at all.

No, the present library would not necessarily be closed when the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) comes into force next year. There will be many libraries and other public buildings in the same position as ourselves. They will not all be closed on day one. Closure would in the first instance require a complaint under the Act that cannot be resolved. If plans are in place to make the necessary improvements, it is likely that time would be given to rectify the situation that gives rise to the complaint.

This suggests an alternative to Workspace's scheme and that is to modify Chiswick Library in such a way as to comply with the provisions of the DDA. At the last session of the Chiswick Area Committee (30 04 03) a resolution was passed to the effect that costed proposals for such essential adaptations be presented for consideration at its next meeting.

It has been claimed that objections to Workspace's original relegation of the library space to the basement of a huge office block have led to their withdrawal. Not so. The scheme was subject to independent evaluation by a firm called Hillier Parker. We have not been allowed to know their findings. We understand that a meeting between the Council and Workspace to discuss them as well as new plans put forward by the Council will be held within the next month.

Until the outcome of this meeting is known, discussion of the views of either party remains pure speculation. The Friends of Chiswick Library was and remains opposed to an underground location for a public library especially when it is specific to the needs of the disabled: access only by lift or narrow staircase, a potential hazard, is unacceptable.

To keep telling Workspace that their solution is the only alternative to closure undermines the Council's bargaining position. That said, we have to admit that Acts without the funding to implement them force those who have to comply into the arms of the dread PFI (Private Finance Initiative) where company profit tops the agenda. The government has issued guidelines (Framework for the Future) as to what every library should provide by 2013. Will it put its money where its mouth is?

Quite obviously our library as it stands is inadequate now and becomes more and more so with every passing year. Radical change is required and such change has been made in other London boroughs and in other parts of the country ­ in Norwich, for example. What we could have done with the money wasted on the Millennium Dome!

The Friends of Chiswick Library hopes to organise a public meeting in the near future to give an opportunity for wider and lengthier informed discussion of these controversial issues than is possible on the crowded agenda of Chiswick Area Committee meetings.

Shirley Hadi
Chair: Friends of Chiswick Library

May 21, 2003

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