Protesters barricade doors of Kensal Rise Library in bid to stop the council clearing shelves books


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The Independent Online

It was handed to the local community by the author Mark Twain more than a hundred years ago. Now that community is fighting to keep it. Protesters are barricading the doors of their local library in a bid to stop the council clearing its shelves of books.

"This feels D-Day," said one this morning, adding: "this is the day we've been building up to."

Council officers moved in at around 8:30 this morning to begin the job of clearing Kensal Rise Library in west London, which earmarked for closure. The campaign to save it has attracted the support of literary luminaries like Alan Bennett, Phillip Pullman and Jacqueline Wilson. But the clearance is going ahead on what is the final day of the outgoing council leader's tenure.

"These are the children who will not be able to use the library," said 40-year-old Jodi Gramigni, indicating towards her two and a half-year-old son Marcello. In an impassioned speech to the tens of protesters gathered.

Before bursting into tears, she added: "this library could be lost to everyone and could be turned into flats or knocked down - we don't know. This community had a place to go from, regardless of their background or culture and they (the council) are stripping it away from us out of spite."

Margaret Bailey, who is leading the protest, said: "We would like the new leader of the council to intervene and freeze this action. He has promised a more concilliatory approach to residents."

New leader, Mohammad Butt, who assumes his position later today has promised to respond to the protesters' requests later today after ousting rival Ann John, who protesters accused of carrying out the clearance on her final day in office out of "beligerance".

The library was stripped of books and only a few toys remain in place inside. An empty removal van sits outside, while staff tasked with removing the books are shut inside.

A pop-up library, run by residents, is outside and locals said this morning they wanted to save the facility for the children who use it.

"It is mainly used by parents and young kids. I used to see quite a lot of people in the reference library, I have used it as a parent and it was very used," said Caroline Bottomley, 51.

"Kids need to be encouraged to independently go to libraries and use the services," said 47-year-old Jason Lambert, who lives in Kensal Rise.

He added: "Not all of thew school kids have access to library facilities. Primary School kids are not going to be able to get the bus miles up the road to Wembley to go to the next nearest."

And old sign posted in the window reads "the library will remain closed in the morning for a staff meeting and will reopen at 2pm. We apologise for any inconvenience caused."