Yesterday I popped into Northolt Leisure Centre Library (NLCL). This is one of the five library services that the council is currently looking at closing. NLCL is a cracking success. It is probably the exact model that the council will copy in Acton when it re-provides a library and leisure centre there.
The council has set four criteria by which it will judge if a library should close:
- Location and range of services available – where libraries are and what they offer in relation to other libraries.
- Investment – financial investment already made or required into buildings, vehicles and stock.
- Number of service users – how well the services are used.
- Running costs per user – what it costs to provide each service.
As NLCL is brand new the 2nd criteria does not apply but the other three could have been chosen to specifically target this library.
As the chart below shows NLCL is the cheapest of Ealing libraries if you count costs per book actually borrowed as your measure. Let’s face it the one unique thing a library does is lend people stuff. On this measure NLCL costs £3.17 per loan as opposed to the borough average of £5.17.
Why close the cheapest library? NLCL is the third best library in terms of costs per visitor. The council seem to be looking at the number of active borrowers, the lowest at 871. Apparently the council wants to ignore the fact that NLCL’s loyal users actually go there regularly and borrow books.
The council is also ignoring that NLCL is cheap whilst having very long opening hours. Because NLCL is based within the leisure centre it is open 48 hours per week. Northfields, Pitshanger and West Ealing are open 37.5 hours per week. Hanwell, Perivale and Wood End are only open 33.5 hours per week.
Again, because the library is co-located with the leisure centre it does not suffer from ad hoc closures in the same way that our other small libraries do.
Finally, the argument that this library is too near Northolt library does not hold water either. The people in Northolt Mandeville ward, who live on the north side of the A40 are well served by this library. They shouldn’t have to cross the A40 to go to the library.
Why is Labour attacking Ealing’s cheapest library?