Good news. The Council is going to spend Â£240K on Northfield library. Bad news. It will have 30% less books.
On Tuesday 13th June I went to the library to attend the consultation on the new scheme. It looks good. In particular they are going to push the frontage forward, creating more space and making the library much more accessible to the public. Disabled access will be improved and there will be a new public loo which will be up to disabled standards.
I was concerned about the loss of shelf space so I asked the officer responsible, Peter Hounsell, Asset Manager in the Libraries, Information & Learning department some more questions in writing to which I got a reply today. It appears that there will be storage for 9,000 books rather than the current 13,000. This means we will spend Â£240K on a new library and get 30% fewer books.
The thinking has been driven by two assumptions, both of which are erroneous in my mind.
Firstly, they should remove high shelves to make books more accessible to disabled users. This seems to be a pretty warped reading of the Disability Discrimination Act which asks for reasonable accommodation to be made for disabled people. Reducing the amount of book storage and thus reducing the public amenity for all does not seem to be a sensible outcome of the DDA to me. I would be happier if I thought some real disabled users had suggested it.
Secondly, it is desirable to have more internet workstations. All very well but such services are widely commercially available and I am wary of providing more if it means that book lending is reduced. There is no private sector book lending so protecting that service has to be the priority I think.
When this proposal comes to the Ealing Area Committee I will be questioning this thinking.