ANGRY protesters who fear over future of Barnet libraries have labelled the council’s pro-reading programmes as "hypocritical".

The National Bookstart Week, running from June 6-12, in libraries across Barnet, is a celebration of BookTrust’s flagship reading programme – and protesters have welcomed this initiative.

However, people are arguing that the decreased number of library staff and opening hours, will mean less of these programmes for children in the near future.

Barnet councillors voted in favour of the £2.85m cuts from the library service in April this year, meaning opening hours are reduced to 15 or 16 hours a week and library staff were cut by 46%. 

Barnet Council will be responsible for providing the library space, grant funding, books and other resources.

Councillor Reuben Thompstone, chairman of the children’s, education, libraries and safeguarding committee, previously said Bookstart Week is a “fantastic way of inspiring children” and encouraged parents to become involved.

Campaigner Barbara Jacobson of Whetstone, said: “Cllr Reuben Thompstone’s comments are a breath-taking example of hypocrisy. Has the man no shame? Bookstart is a wonderful programme, and Bookstart Week will be a great way to inspire children to read, this year -but what about the future?

“Who organizes and supervises the events in the libraries – could it be the staff that Cllr Thompstone will be making redundant? Who will run the events next year?

“The few remaining staff trying to provide a service as they rush from one library to another to keep them staffed for a total of 15–23 hours a week, or the volunteers working two hours each a week?

“Let's encourage parents and grandparents to go to the library to see what Cllr Thompstone and his Tory colleagues are taking from the children throughout Barnet and then tell the Councillor what they think. Bookstart or books stopped, Councillor?”

The aim of the BookTrust, is to remind families of the importance of reading for fun and more than 30 activities for children will been offer in libraries across the borough.

The programme has 450,000 copies of an underwater themes book to give out to children across the UK.

Barnet’s libraries will soon be run by unpaid volunteers.  

Three main changes to the 14 libraries across the borough, include new CCTV cameras in the libraries, children from 15-years-old can use the services independently, and children under 15-years-old will be able to use online digital services.  

Barnet blogger Theresa Musgrove said the council’s plans to approve the plans will “destroy” the library service. –

She said: “It will not be possible to hold such events in the newly decimated service, and most importantly, the borough's children will be banned from attending the unstaffed branches. Ethos clearly is the driving force for charities, but not Barnet Council.”

However, Councillor Reuben Thompstone, chairman of the children, education, libraries and safeguarding committee, responded to campaigners and said: “Literacy activities and reading schemes, such as Bookstart, will remain at the heart of what the libraries service does, and will continue to be delivered across the Barnet Libraries network.         

"Plans for the library service will maintain all 14 Barnet libraries, and work to redesign our libraries will include separate community spaces which can be used for events and activities such as Bookstart.

"Partnership libraries will deliver Bookstart packs as part of the core service offer, while also providing local community groups with the flexibility to decide what extra reading activities they deliver based on their local priorities.”

What are your thoughts on National Book start week, will you be attending the library events?

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