All Souls owned library in potential reprieve

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A historic library owned by All Souls College was stripped of all its books and furniture in the early hours of last Tuesday morning. Council workers backed by the police cleared Kensal Rise Library between 2 and 3am, removing thousands of books and the plaque commemorating its opening 112 years ago.

However, the library was given a lifeline on Saturday after the council agreed to talk with campaigners about a possible community-run project. The project is also dependent on an arrangement being reached with All Souls.

In 2010 Brent Council announced that six libraries in the borough would be closed owing to “dwindling visitors and the state of the buildings themselves”. Despite the efforts of local campaigners, the supreme court ruled that no further appeal would be heard against the council’s decision.

A spokesperson for the college stressed that it was a purely legal process, stating, “We donated the property to the borough of Brent under the 1854 Literary and Scientific Institutions Act. There was only one condition: the building was to be used as a library and for no other purpose.”

He added that the college had warned the Council in the past, “If you close it, you lose it.”

Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council, said, “Our libraries have to bear a share of spending cuts, and I make no apology for that. The deep reductions of over £100m in Brent’s budget imposed by the government mean we have to make difficult choices about all our services.”

The college has said that it never wished to be part of a local political debate. The spokesperson stated, “Our predecessors would be shocked: most people do not give back gifts.”

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