Local residents popped into Childs Hill Library this week to meet its new management — learning disability charity Kisharon.
From April, Kisharon will be responsible for the running of the library in Cricklewood Lane, which has been closed for renovation, in association with Barnet Mencap.
The move is a result of the controversial plan by Barnet Council to reduce library services across the borough to effect savings of £2.2 million per year by 2019/20.
As part of the overhaul, Kisharon and two other “preferred partners” have been taken on to run four libraries in the borough. An open meeting was held at Childs Hill library for locals to learn more about the plans.
In addition to administering the book lending service, Kisharon will be responsible for children’s events and IT training for users.
Kisharon’s mission is to help those with learning difficulties gain independence and lead fulfilling working lives. It creates job opportunities through partnerships with local businesses and it is hoped the library will offer further opportunities for clients to gain work experience and learn new skills.
Under a 10-year agreement, the council will lease the library premises to Kisharon and provide equipment and book stock, plus a small grant towards running costs. In 2017-18, the grant will be £35,000, with £28,000 the following year and £25,000 subsequently.
In return, Kisharon will manage and develop the service, initially for a minimum 15 opening hours per week. Barnet Mencap will step in on Shabbat and Yomtovim.
A library partnership manager has been appointed to run services, together with adults supported by Kisharon and a team of volunteers.
“I am so delighted that we are able to keep this going,” said Dr Beverley Jacobson, Kisharon’s CEO.
“Libraries are part of community cohesion and a centre where people can come together with a common interest.
“We want to make this a library that has better access for all sorts of disabilities — and possibly offer support and advice for those people too.
“It’s so exciting. If we can provide services to [those] with learning disabilities, it can be very empowering.”
Councillor Reuben Thompstone, chair of Barnet’s Children, Education, Safeguarding and Libraries Committee, said: “Community-run libraries are already working well across the UK. In Barnet, they will form a vital part of our strategy to keep all 14 of our libraries open.”