Campaigners are to mark World Book Bay by staging a protest against cutbacks they claim have led to a fall in people visiting Barnet’s libraries.

Save Barnet Libraries (SBL) is inviting people to gather outside Hendon Town Hall today (March 7) to call for an independent review of the borough’s library provision.

The pressure group claims the council’s own figures show visitor number at several libraries fell following “drastic” cuts to staffed hours and facilities in 2017.

According to SBL, East Barnet Library lost 85 per cent of its visitors since becoming a volunteer “partnership” library and reducing its opening to 15 hours a week.

Meanwhile, Golders Green and North Finchley libraries, which have pin-code restricted access for under-15s and lost their children’s rooms, lost 66 per cent and 51 per cent of their visitors respectively.

SBL’s Emily Burnham said: “This data really backs up residents’ concerns. For example, Barnet’s Youth Assembly called for an end to restrictions on library access for young people and for more study space and communal areas.

“But the council was dismissive of their concerns, claiming instead that there’s an ‘increase in satisfaction’ in our libraries.

“The figures paint a different picture. This is particularly the case where staffed hours and youth facilities, such as children’s rooms and study space, are most reduced.”

Campaigners also fear a review of library provision that was planned for Thursday’s meeting has been taken off the agenda.

Barnet Council says a drop in visitor numbers was expected in 2017-18, as some libraries were closed due to refurbishment during 2017.

Libraries are now open longer thanks to the redesigned service, and a survey of 500 young people in the borough showed satisfaction with libraries had increased.

Cllr Reuben Thompstone, chairman of the community leadership and libraries committee, said: “The figures being quoted are comparing visitor numbers with a period in 2017, during which some of our libraries were closed for several months at a time for refurbishment – therefore we would expect to see visitor numbers to have reduced.

“The way people use libraries continues to change and we see year-on-year increases in people using our wide range of digital services – not something which would be reflected in physical visitor numbers.

“At the same time, the way in which we have redesigned our library service has allowed us to keep open all of the borough’s 14 libraries at a time when local authorities are facing significant financial challenges.

“Every one of our libraries has a children’s library area, children can still use our libraries and do so, and we continue to offer an array of fantastic services and events such those being offered at the moment as part of our 2019 Year of Learning.”

The protest will be held outside Hendon Town Hall at 6.15pm on Thursday, March 7.