Residents battle to preserve library gifted to community by Mark Twain


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The Independent Online

It was handed to the community by author Mark Twain more than a hundred years ago. Now that community is fighting to keep it open. A group of protesters became a figurehead for the host of anti-library closure campaigns across the country yesterday as they barricaded the doors and stopped its shelves being stripped of books.

Residents of the west London suburb of Kensal Rise are just one of the many communities seeing libraries threatened as councils seek to save money. They have had support from authors Alan Bennett, Philip Pullman and Jacqueline Wilson, which culminated in physically stopping council workers clearing the building of books.

"These are the children who will not be able to use the library," said 40-year-old Jodi Gramigni, indicating towards her two-year-old son Marcello. "This community had a place to go, regardless of their background or culture and they (the council) are stripping it away from us out of spite."

Kensal Rise Library was closed down in October last year by Brent Borough Council in a bid to cut spending. Control of the building was supposed to revert to All Souls College, Oxford University.

The Victorian building has housed a library there since 1900, when it was leased by the college and opened by Twain. Residents have proposed plans to run the library from the building, saying it would be at no cost to the taxpayer but the council has rejected the scheme.

Due to police concerns over the disruption, the council called off the removal men yesterday and promised to respond to the protesters' requests to meet and discuss their plans.