Friern Barnet Library reopens as negotiations between Barnet Council and squatters continue

Up to 50 people went in to see the newly created library, which organisers say will be open at least three days a week

Up to 50 people went in to see the newly created library, which organisers say will be open at least three days a week

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Friern Barnet Library was reopened to an “ecstatic” public on Saturday by a group of squatters looking to reclaim the facility for the community.

Barnet Council closed the Friern Barnet Road library in April but last week a team of activists broke in and began demanding the building be reopened.

On Saturday, more than 400 books were placed back on the library shelves as up to 50 people visited between 11am and 3pm.

The buildings inhabitants say they plan to open for at least three days a week.

One of the activists, Pete Phoenix, said: “People were ecstatic. It was brilliant. There has been a huge upsurge in support and we’ve had offers of help from all over.

“We’re putting together a team of people with experience in running libraries and running it on a rota basis. The building could be empty for up to 18 months so we’re hoping to set up the library in that period.”

This morning (Monday) four Barnet Council officers arranged a meeting with the group.

The squatters want to set up a permanent community library that is part voluntary and part council-funded.

In the mean time, Friern barnet Library is being reopened on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, between 11am and 3pm, and Saturdays between 11am and 5pm.

A team of three senior libraries officers and the council’s deputy chief executive this morning sat down and offered to help the squatters set up a similar facility in Friary House, Friary Park.

A second meeting has been organised between the squatters and the council next Monday at which the two parties will look at models of community libraries in Surrey and Lewisham.

Phoenix said: “I’m amazed at the level of co-operation shown by the council. It is a ground breaking situation to have the council sitting down in discussions with us.

“People were asking them why they haven’t spoken to them like this before. One powerful piece of action has triggered this. The building should and will be open. We're pleased with the discussions so far and we'll see where it goes.”

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