Campaign group on brink of Keats Library survival deal

Published: 22 March 2012

A CAMPAIGN group is finally on the point of securing a deal with the Town Hall to keep Keats Library in Hampstead open.

After months of discussions and worries that a deal might fall through, The Phoenix group has reached an “agreement in principle” to take over the running of the library in the wake of Camden Council’s decision to stop managing it.

The group is made up of members of the Friends of Heath Library, the Heath and Hampstead Society and the South End Green Association.

Keats Library survival follows in the wake of a successful deal at Chalk Farm Library, in Sharpleshall Street, now re-named Primrose Hill Library and run by a volunteer management. Children have cel­ebrated its salvation with a trip to a go-karting track.

Pupils from Haver­stock, St Paul’s and Primrose Hill schools were awarded free places on the trip after writing essays on the importance of libraries.

The trip to Team­works Karting in Letchworth, Hert­fordshire, was run at cost price for the library campaign by the daughter of Myra Schehtman, a Chalk Farm librarian for more than 30 years.

Norman Franklin, an ex-governor of Haver­stock School who has lived in Primrose Hill for 60 years, also funded places on the trip.

He said: “The kids all enjoyed it and so did I. I am 84 and I have never been go-karting and it was just brilliant.

"I am seriously considering it for my 85th birthday party.

"When I went into the library on Monday the place was absolutely hopping with children and it is just so wonderful to see.

"It is a local library and it is well used so I decided I would help them raise some money.”

Libraries still run by the council are set to see their hours reduced across the board from next month.

As of April 2, most libraries will have at least an hour shaved off daily opening hours, with Queen’s Crescent Library, in Gospel Oak, taking the biggest cut.

It will open daily at 11am instead of 10am and will shut as early as 5pm.

The library is currently open until 7pm on weekdays.

Yasmin Allen, chair of the Friends of Queen’s Crescent Library, says residents have a “big fight on our hands” to ensure it is not lying idle when they are desperate to make use of it.

She said: “The library is busy. Our users spend a lot of time self-learning and older people speak to younger people and share information.

"We are more than just a high-street library.”


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