Brent SOS campaign

Brent SOS Libraries, formed in 2011 to fight the closure of half the borough’s public libraries, campaigns for improved library provision in the London Borough of Brent.

Continue following the library campaigns around Brent and keep an eye on upcoming events.

The campaign is now Brent Save Our Seven Libraries – follow the campaign to save Willesden Green Library.





11am to 3pm


Join the torch relay to mark four years since Brent Council closed our six libraries, with an additional stop at Willesden Green Library. The relay will link the libraries, with readings at each stop. Come along and help to celebrate our steadfast commitment to continue the fight for our libraries. Since the closures, community libraries have opened in Barham and Preston, and will open in Kensal Rise and Cricklewood next year.

Kensal Rise Library (start) 11am

Willesden Green Library 11.30am

Cricklewood Library 12 noon

Neasden Library 12.30pm

Tokyngton Library 1pm

Barham Volunteer Library,

428 Wembley High Road 1.45pm

Barham Library 2.15pm

Preston Community Library (end) 3pm

AGM 2015

The Brent SOS AGM 2015 will take place on Sunday 7th June 2015 at 3pm at

Preston Community Library, Carlton Avenue East, Wembley, Middlesex HA9 8PL

Please come along for an update on community libraries across Brent

and to share your thoughts on library provision in Brent.

There will be tea and cake.


Campaign groups around the borough marked Light of Learning Day 2014 with a series of events marking the third anniversary of the library closures.

Light of Learning day 2014 at Barham LibraryLight of Learning Day 2014 at Cricklewood

Light of Learning Day 2014 at Barham and Cricklewood

Brent SOS light of learning relay poster for Sat 12 Oct 2013 amended to add extra Preston stop

*****Meeting Notification for 19 May 2013***** ******Meeting Notification for 19 May 2013*****

Brent SOS Libraries

Annual Meeting

Sunday 19th May 2013

3pm to 5pm

Barham Community Library

428 High Road,

Wembley HA9 6AH

5 minutes walk from Wembley Central Station (Bakerloo line and Overground).

Bus numbers 18, 92 and 182 stop outside the library.

All library lovers are welcome.

Come and find out what has been happening across the borough,

especially about new and proposed community libraries,

and share your thoughts about the library service.

Tea and cake (please bring a cake contribution if you would like to).


Photo Photo Photo
Preparations for the Light of Learning relay at Barham Pop-Up Library

Campaign Documents

Brent SOS Libraries report May 2012

News stories

************** 23 Feb 2013*****************

CIPFA study shows terrible performance by Brent Library Service

compared with other London boroughs

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy(CIPFA) is the leading accountancy body for the public services. The full set of statistics can be found at

This article discusses their latest comparative statistics on libraries and it shows Brent in a very poor light indeed.

Each borough is analysed within a comparator group and Brent appears both within the London boroughs and outer Boroughs groups (e.g. with Harrow, Barnet, etc.). In every case Brent is either bottom of the class or in the “relegation zone”.

Comparison within 16 London boroughs :

Brent comes last, or worst, in the following criteria:

Lowest number of libraries (6 against an Average of 11, despite being the fourth largest of 16 boroughs compared)

Lowest percentage of book requests met within 7 days

Lowest number of service points i.e. full libraries plus other service locations

Lowest number of service points per 100,000 population (2 against an average of 4)

Lowest number of staff per 100,000 population.

Brent comes second last or worst in “physical visits for library purposes”.

But of course we know that Brent has no way of distinguishing visits for library and non-library purposes so even this puny “achievement’ is probably an overestimate.

Brent lifts its performance to be only third worst in a) Number of active borrowers and b) Book stock per 1000 population.

You may remember that Brent made promises to protect expenditure on book stock. They claimed it would be better once they only had to service six libraries. This seemed to us false logic because it is people that borrow books, not buildings. In fact, Brent’s population actually increased by 18% between the 2001 and 2011 census so even if the book stock had been protected it would have fallen back against the population that had to be serviced – but population was something the many pages of “library strategy” never mentioned.I wonder why?

But do not despair. Brent is not always at the bottom.

Brent has the fifth highest cost per book acquisition (and is above average)

Brent has the third highest cost of employee expenditure as a percentage of revenue expenditure. (Forecast to rise to second highest in 2012-13.)

Of course, this might be a good thing if Brent were efficient in managing non-employee costs as that might explain employee cost being such a high percentage. Sadly, this is not the case.

Brent has the highest material expenditure as a percentage of revenue expenditure.

Brent has the highest absolute cost per employee (approximately £47,000 compared to an average of £35,000 – and remember, we are comparing against central London Boroughs). What do we get for this apparent excess?

Brent also appears in the Harrow and Barnet group and again appears at the bottom of just about every metric measured by CIPFA.

The Brent & Kilburn Times (26 December, 2012) ran an article headed “Independent Report Slates Brent Council’s Library Service.” Given the right to reply, Cllr Powney was able to refute all the criticism with chapter and verse.

Only kidding! What he actually said was that ”we have been able to refurbish and improve Ealing Rd and Kilburn Library to create attractive and modern spaces and we are extending our Outreach services to parts of Brent which did not have a library nearby”. He obviously just broke into his mantra about (expensively refurbished at a cost not disclosed in the “strategy”) buildings and had nothing whatsoever to say about the statistics. Perhaps he did not hear the question.

Cllr. Powney claims that libraries are not about buildings but about service. Well, what about the service?

What percentage of previously-active users of the closed six libraries remain active users? If he is not monitoring this metric then it shows he does not care.

Why not consider conveniently located delivery points other than full-time libraries?

Why not make more use of volunteer staff to improve service without adding cost?

At a recent meeting, Cllr Powney indicated that no improvement was possible as he is intent on his “strategy” which consists of the number 6.

Cllr Powney tries to spin the data to make the best of a failing “strategy” He states, in his Blog of 1 February, 2013, the number of visitors and the number of book issues to date.

But he fails to make any comparison with the same period last year. In fact, there is little evidence that the loss suffered when the six libraries closed has been made up.

He lists the number of new borrowers. But he fails to give the number of once-active borrowers who are no longer active due to the closure programme.

He is proud to list the number of children (1500) who attended revamped homework clubs.This suggests that there is a need. But he fails to explain why he is not prepared to offer a similar service to children in the Preston/Kenton area.

He states that 56,000 “items”(are items books or what?) were added to the bookstock. But he fails to list the total bookstock compared to the total this time last year.

He pointlessly comments that: “If laid end to end those 56,000 items would stretch from Wembley Stadium to Piccadilly Circus.”

Well, we say that if all the Councillors were laid end to end along the North Circular, it would serve them right.

What it amounts to is this. Brent has implemented a prejudiced, ill-conceived, politically-motivated decision that ignores service to the WHOLE community and, thus far,is impervious to reality. No amount of spin can conceal that.

- An article by Simon Gurevitz.



Youtube video links


Brent SOS Libraries not giving up!


Philip Pullman on saving Brent’s libraries:


Zadie Smith on Radio 4 talking about Brent libraries:


Brent SOS campaign documents


Written evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Library Closures


The complete list of written evidence is at:


Local campaign website links


Library campaign websites



Other useful links


The Public Library Service Standards (now abolished)






  • Shouvik Datta

    I learnt about this initiative from the Independent today.  Good luck (although this kind of initiative is about persistence, as much as luck).  Libraries are a place for people otherwise lonely, to go to.  They can read, or meet other people at their local library.  One of the things I look forward to most is the monthly meeting of my reading group at my own local central library.  Libraries also have an important role in education and the provision of information, especially to young people. 

  • Serena Spencer-jones

    I met Geraldine Cooke last week and gave her a donation for your library campaign, I really hope you CAN save all 6 of them.

  • Simon Stevens

    Quick question, how many disabled or older people do you want the council to leave without support so some retired middle class person can read their book in peace knowing they care for no one but themselves?

    • Wendy

      NONE of course – we are all in this together – fight all the cuts – there is plenty of money in Britain to pay for all of this – just the greedy people who have it dont want to share it

      • Eyes open

        So are you saying tax the better off some more or close tax loopholes or what?

    • Dsfgrc

      Are you for real? The total cuts in question realize 1m. pounds

  • Shouvik Datta

    Libraries are places where older and disabled people can get out of their homes, interact with the wider world, and meet other people from the local community.  Most reading groups I know consist mainly of older people (this is also a comment on the young, and literacy).  Libraries are places where all people (including older people) can find information.  One of the quickest ways to become infirm is to stay in one’s home and grow isolated and lonely.

  • Wendy Davis

    devastated to hear the news just now – who exactly voted for all this???  dont give up …

  • Grahame Leon-smith

    I was disgusted to hear that the court refused to accept your fully justified appeal against Brent Council’s decision to close six libraries and would like to help you in any way I can.  The Independent ThinkTank which I founded is opposed to the closure of all libraries as they are a vitally important part of community life.  Please give me a ring anytime on 01932 874303 or send an email to:

  • Colhil

    I am shocked by the court decision.  Since when have libraries become an added luxury? They are fundamental to a civil,civic way of living.  It is nothing short of a tragedy, made more so by the fact that Anne John – the decision maker at Brent – is both unimaginative and not too bright.  
    What happens now?  How can I help?

  • Joyus1uk

    Voters in Brent next May will
    have their say. Like Kidderminster unless local political parties rally
    to the cause, independent minded people should stand for election.

  • Jess Abbo

    Whatever the real motives are behind Brent Council’s alacrity in shutting six libraries, Ann John and her cohorts should beware the symbolism of what they are doing. Boarding-up libraries will be recalled as culturally comparable to ending free education or even calling for book-burnings.  If the Labour Party, ‘new’ or otherwise, wishes not to be associated with councillors of its own colour who have closed half their borough’s libraries, it should speak up immediately – and ‘disown’ them.  Aneurin Bevan must be spinning in his grave.

  • Anonymous

    Good Luck to the people of Brent trying to prevent their Libraries from closing. The people of the Wirral took on the council and won. A little place called Eastham started the ball rolling. We went to the DCMS and took it to a public enquiry. The council were crucified in the report and they eventually backed down. There is so much waste going on in our public services at the moment, we are being ripped off at every turn. Time to get angry, time to speak out, time to protest, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

    • lol

      thats true

  • Laminatetheevil27

    Hang on in there guys, there are a lot of people rooting for you.

  • Laura Collignon

    Please ask Brent Council to talk to the Friends of Kensal Rise Library – eleven experienced trustees, 60 volunteers, some money in the bank and the community behind them – let the Friends run the library!

    • JBO


  • hilary

    It angers me greatly that you are wasting Brent residents’ council tax money on defending your idiotic and frivolous lawsuits.  Kilburn and Willesden libraries are both within a shortish walk of Kensal rise.  Focussing resources on fewer, better libraries will improve the service for everyone as well as saving money.

    I am a Brent resident.  You do not speak for me.

    • LauraC

      How is it ‘frivolous’ and ‘idiotic’ to argue for the right of people to have access to books?  After shelter, healthcare and food I would say that this is a basic human right!  

      And just whose money do you think is being spent?  What a foolish statement.  Easy for some to swallow library closures than others, it seems.

    • Sal_joe

      There wouldn’t be any need for a lawsuit if Brent Council were simply to talk to us. Why aren’t they talking to us? We want to take over the running of the library so that it isn’t a burden on Brent’s finances.

    • Sonja

      We are not wasting Brent residents’ council tax money – the Council are chosing to do that by refusing to heed the result of their own Consultation which showed 82% of those consulted were against library closures.  When a council refuses to consult, discuss or co-operate with its voters there is only one way to be heard: via the courts.

      I am curious to know whether you have yourself walked from Kensal Rise to Kilburn or Willesden Libraries?  I would also like to know whether you are a mother with small children in tow or an elderly person for whom long walks are not possible -  my feeling is you are neither of these.  A huge number of people who were using the threatened libraries will not be able to get to those who are left.

    • Wembley resident

      Define ‘a shortish walk’. A ‘better’ library, that’s out of reach of people like my elderly father, might as well not exist. You also only refer to the south of the borough. The distance from Preston Road Library to the nearest surviving facility in Kingsbury is 2.1 miles – as was proved by campaigners who decided not to take the council’s claims at face value. Is that ‘a shortish walk’? 

      It’s not appropriate to dismiss people’s rights as ‘idiotic’. Idiocy is better characterised as a servile acceptance of the status quo and a refusal to see anyone else’s point of view. These are not professional campaigners. They’re ordinary people, with their own busy lives, who are spending time and energy to fight for something they believe in. Nobody will hand out any medals. You don’t have to agree, but at least show some respect.

      Finally, these are libraries. Public spaces where children can have access to books and information. Most of Brent is not especially affluent, and we should not sacrifice the most civilised, accessible spaces we have. 

  • Martin Francis
  • Lukas

    I just read this article! Maybe it could work with libraries here in UK?!

  • Lakhpath

    Having closed six small libraries in Brent on the grounds that the decision was necessary to keep Willesden Green library open, staff at Willesden Green library have been told that that site too will close for over two years, for urgent renovation. That leaves south Brent with no library facilities at all!
    At the same time as these closures, our streets have been flooded with spanking new ‘blue top’ recycling bins to replace our perfectly good existing recycling bins! Does anyone  know how much the cost of this unnecessary exercise was?

  • max

    People of Brent show kick Ann John out of office at the next election

  • Lakhpath

    Now that Willesden Green library too is to close its doors for over two years from April 2012, shouldn’t we rename the campaign Save our Seven libraries?

  • Annaf

    I too am horrified to hear that willesden green library may  close for ‘renovation’ although it seems the plans are more about development of the site and turning it into a mega high tech and no doubt soulness new centre .The building is only 20 years old , is cherished by the local community and the loss of the wide range of services it offers would be a huge blow .Does anyone know if there is any  organised opposition  to this proposal ? we should make sure that the local community are aware of these plans before it is too late . 

  • Martin

    Brent Council have given Willesden Bookshop notice to quit by April 17th 2012. More on

  • Shokzi

    Every time I’ve been to any of those 6 libraries they’ve been empty. You all are going on about nothin.

    • geraldine

      There are many photographs of the overcrowding in the remaining libraries; and before the closed libraries had many people in them, reading, borrowing books, joining in events for children,..taking part in nationwide events. This is how  the council has deprived members of the closed libraries, residents and people who work in their vicinty; the  elderly and disabled., the jobseekers.
      Please go and use your

  • Jess

    Well, congratulations Brent councillors. Now you can happily look forward to closing down your seventh library, that being Kingsbury Library ‘Plus’ whose  lease, I understand, expires in 2013. Inevitable, of course, since the old library building was sold off in favour of the current rented one.

    The Supreme Court awaits.

  • Colette Hiller

    Now the judgement has been lost and I understand it all goes to the high court
    But what should we the public do? If we’ve donated money and written many letters – what next?  
    We should be harnessing the public’s support – we are not doing that. 

    This website has not alas been updated  - how the public can really help is not clear - 

  • Martin Francis

    This message was sent out to supporters from the Preston Library campaigners:

    Dear Supporters


    You will know from the Christmas Update that our legal
    team have applied for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. This – and the
    injunction application – will be considered by the Supreme Court early in the
    New Year.


    However, despite protests from campaigners and
    passers-by from the local community, library staff and contractors removed books
    and equipment from Preston Library today . You can see a film of the removal and
    reports in the local press at -




    This was very disappointing as we had hoped that Brent
    Council would not take such action while the legal action was still continuing.
    However, this move is not irretrievable and both the legal campaign and the
    pressure on Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sports, to
    hold an enquiry into the Brent library closure plan will continue.


    We will keep you informed of any new developments –
    but stay in touch through our website and the
    Facebook pages [see below]

    Unsurprisingly, Brent has won Private Eye’s 2011
    Rotten Borough award for its “Library Transformation Plan” ! See…


    Good wishes for a better library service in

  • Martin

    Local people concerned about issues around the redevelopment of Willesden Green Library are meeting on Thursday 16th February. Further information from their website:

  • Martin

    Brent Council Executive will be discussing the referral from Scrutiny tonight that calls for libraries to be reopened during the closure of Willesden Green for redevelopment. Speakers are also booked in to make representations on associated issues including the Willesden Bookshop.

  • Laurencesmythwilliam

    we love books

  • Paras

    this is lame. If I was rich I’d make a huge donation to save our libraries. It sucks how necessary services such as these are not affected in rich area, but they (the tories) take away the most money from the people who need it the most! Disgrace! Can’t wait for labour to come back in power. Long live our brent libraries

  • John Boyle

    Sian Griffiths is a local Brent resident, firefighter and now candidate for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in the upcoming elections.
    Sian was awarded the Queens Fire Service Medal (QFSM)  and one of only 2 women to have ever received the award, in Nov 2010 but 2 days later was then suspended for supporting the Fire Brigades Union’s industrial action against the proposed sacking of 5000 firefighters and she was subsequently disciplined and demoted. She is pursuing her case through an Employment (industrial) tribunal next month (May).  Sian is a parent and also active within her local community in Willesden and is the Chair of Queens Park Community School (QPCS) Parent, Teachers, Friends Association (PTFA). It is exactly this kind of worker that TUSC wants to see representing ordinary people instead of the usual high polished career politicians.
    TUSC is a coalition of unions, activists and like minded people commited to opposing “all cuts” on the basis that money is plentiful at the tops of society and just needs to be shared out. All candidates stand by this pledge. TUSC represents an alternative to the 3 main parties which represent the millionaires instead it stands for the millions. We enjoy the backing of the RMT Union nationally and FBU in London.We are planning a public meeting for the 24th of April so if anyone from the campaign would like to come and speak or support tusc in any other way contact me or 07986897629. 

  • JBO

    Voters in Brent must vote with their feet when it comes to appointing new councillors.  It is very important you keep up to date with what the council is up to especially people like Ann John.  Don’t waste your vote you can force decisions.  I wonder how long she will be in power?

  • deanstephenbooth

    I used to live in Lechmere Road (directly across the High Road) so read the article in the Brent and Kilburn Times with some interest:

    My heart sank when I saw yet another example of a solid, substantial and attractive Victorian building being set up for demolition by a short sighted, greedy and insensitive council.

    The replacement building will inevitably be built with lower quality materials, be undistinguished, will look horribly dated within a few years (fashions change like socks in the 21st century) – and will likely be torn down itself in a couple of decades!

    Does this type of bland, boxy, could-be-anywhere building enhance the street character of London or simply, at best, blend in unnoticed or, at worst, be an overbearing ugly intrusion completely out of keeping with the area.

    A proper re-development (if one is even required – the library and cinema complex at the back seemed to operate fine when I used them in the 90s even though the 70s(?) building itself was a bit drab) would skilfully complement/respond to the impressive villa-esque Victorian structure and incorporate it into the design. Though perhaps the seeking of real skill, artistry and creativity is too much for the mediocre, short-term-gain councillors.

    I suggest they order a copy of

    for the existing library – gather round in one of their meeting rooms with it and flick through the examples of criminal, wanton destruction of many fine Victorian buidings for the sake of ‘progress’ – and think about the dross that they were replaced with!!!. I thought we were more enlightened, considerate and appreciative of preserving our dwindling heritage as we move through the 21st century.

    Good luck with this important campaign!

  • Ting Mei Chiu

    One dollor,one action to save the libraries of the towns.Because we know it’s a unique space of junction for the residents in the towns.When the children grow up,they always remember the wonderful time to stay there to enjoy the reading time in the warm afternoons,whatever alone or with their father or mother.So it’s different from the function of e-book or bookmobile.One dollor,one action to save the living way which we want.

  • Gudbettin

    Love books or hate books, if the closure is imminent, lets enjoy the moment!!
    Check this out!

  • steveb9887

    Can someone contact me on 07803138075 I would like to arrange a meeting with you to see if we can get you some TV coverage for your campaign? or you can email me at 

  • Book Reader

    I poped in to have a look at the revamped Kilburn library and I was dissapointed to see new and much smaller book shelves and fewer books.
    I’d like to see larger book shelves and more books…………where are all the paperback novels gone?

  • Sally Long

    Please add Cricklewood info! and invite people to sign our petition

  • Mr Mouse

    Sadly Brent council operates it’s own perverse form of socialism.

    You would think in this modern day of enlightenment they would have supported the residents in their bid to keep the library open.

    It does not take much imagination for the council to contact All Souls College and ask for the library to be turned over to a residents library trust and let us run it ourselves.

    Brent in typical dinosaur fashion dug it’s legal heels in and fought for the libraries closure.

    It reminds me of the days when they tried to make residents sell their homes when they applied to have them re rated.

    Or how council officials would sit outside the courts telling people they could not go in.

    Yes I remember those days well.