Dwight Staff Member Mary Langford - founding member of The Friends of Cricklewood Library
Since 1989 I have been a founding member of The Friends of Cricklewood Library. It was in 1989 that for the second time, Brent Council started to make noises about closing our local community library. By raising public awareness of the library, hosting occasional lectures of interest to the community (local girl-made-good Zaidi Smith was our first speaker!; Dalgit Nagra, aka The Bard of Dollis Hill, an award winning local poet was another), by lobbying All Souls College Oxford who original gifted the library to the community 90 years ago, and by doing lots of surveys, we staved off the closure for over a decade. Then, about five years ago, despite collaborations with other six other Brent Libraries (SOS – Save our Six) and LLL (Libraries for Londoners for Life) the Council sent in the wrecking ball and sold the land to a property developer. (According to the BBC, about 450 public libraries have been closed in Britain in recent years.)
Not thwarted by the wrecking ball, the FOCL rallied again and mounted a bi-partisan, community-wide movement which resulted in an invitation to give testimony before Brent Council Planning authorities, and the result was that the developer had to devote the ground floor of his new 4-story block of flats to become a public library, and the Council named the Friends of Cricklewood Library as the preferred occupants. So, now the building is standing nearing completion, and we are raising funds through donations and grants so we are ready to open in early 2017. We need £100,000 to finish the interior and furnish with fixtures, fittings and wifi.
To keep our Cricklewood Library name alive, we started a pop-up library at our local Willesden Green Underground Station (see photo) – we take it in turns to tidy and re-stock with books, though passers-by also donate books. I am always giddy with joy when I pass through that station even late on a Saturday night and see people of all ages browsing through the collection. Such has been the success of our 'Willesden Green Tube Branch' that the station manager at the Cricklewood Rail station asked us in October to open a pop up at his station. This has kept our library in the public profile, even though we don't actually 'have' a library.
We have no shortage of bookstock. During the summer I took a day off to help sort through all the donated books we have received (from members of the public but also the American School of London) to separate the 'keepers' from the books we would use to sell at local fairs, from the books we use to stock the pop-ups. At the end of 3 days of stocktaking, we discovered we had a collection of 5000 books that are ready to stock our new library when it opens.
Starting out as Secretary to the FOCL in 1998, I have been active throughout and am now one of the Trustees for the new Charity that we had to create to formalise and raise funds. Our library will be a resource for the local community, particularly the two local primary schools and several nurseries, but also a venue for homework club after school and EAL lessons for our highly diverse Cricklewood community.
My interest in libraries is somewhat genetic. My grandmother was a librarian for the Waseca County Public Library in Minnesota, and my earliest memories are of her working in the library and bringing home books to read to us; my mother paid her college tuition by working in her university library. Friday night visits to the bookmobile were part of my childhood in Ohio. It gives me tremendous satisfaction to be part of a volunteer, community-led project that is coming to fruition.