Friends of Highgate Library – Shepherds Hill was born from the united view that the plans between Haringey Council and Jacksons Lane Arts Centre, supported by the original Highgate Library Friends Group (HLAG). HLAG refused our requests for a poll or petition of local library users, instead supporting the feasibility study with plans, private meetings and indeed expressing concerns about our existing library. Indeed HLAG threw our co-chair and the campaign originator Tamara Cincik and her husband, out of the HLAG committee for starting the campaign to save Highgate Library.
There were no notices within Highgate Library regarding the proposed relocation, until we started the campaign. We were not allowed to publicise our events and concerns until we became a constituted library group, so we quickly formulated our group and our aims.
There was no intention from Haringey of ever having a full public consultation.
The only original discussions were between HLAG, Jacksons Lane and Haringey, with one badly publicised public event.
That was until we created Friends of Highgate Library – Shepherds Hill.
Locals and library users alike supported our campaign with over 1600 online and 800 supporters at Fair In The Square, all signing our petitions against the relocation proposals and asking for a full public consultation at the very least.
When Haringey Council’s Cabinet voted to agree to the sell off in principle two days before the first of the feasibility meetings, we were made aware that Haringey had no intention of ever having a public consultation. Meaning had any feasibility plans been deemed viable, there would have been no recourse for public discussion. This we did not feel was acceptable. However we noted that given the rising concerns at our campaign the Council Leader, Claire Kober for the first time, confirmed that if the co-location feasibility plan was unworkable, Haringey would now match fund the Art Council England funding for Jacksons Lane.
This offer had empathically not been on the table prior to our campaign and given the subsequent chain of events, this was a win for Friends of Highgate Library – Shepherds Hill, which led to our eventual victory.
Two days later we attended both events with Katy Marks the architect and Jacksons Lane, plus one member of Haringey library services, with no Councillors in attendance. The rooms were filled with opponents to the plans, which were never costed and while some of our supporters were there, it has to be noted that not every single person there was a member of our group. One woman even stated that she had changed her mind after listening to Jacksons Lane and the architect showcase their vision for the library. What was clear that public feeling was running high and that the local community did not want this relocation to go ahead.
A month later, Haringey organised their only event about Highgate Library, at Highgate Wood School, with library services and councillors. It was badly advertised by both Jacksons Lane and Haringey, and it has to be noted that the location was not disability accessible, as we heard from upset locals who could not attend due to the location.
FOHLSH decided to fully advertise this meeting: printing, and doorstepping with over 600 flyers through doors, on poster boards and in shops.
Thanks to all of the over 200 who attended and showcased their concerns.
Including the local parent who highlighted his concern that books were not listed as a future plan for library services Haringey!
Jacksons Lane were over 2 weeks late with their feasibility plans, placing them online when Haringey had permitted them to, while we were at the meeting at Highgate Woods. Again the plans had no costings.
We asked our supporters who were architects to submit the plans to professional responses, which we collated and uploaded on our website with tech support to then track who was responding to the Jacksons Lane study via our website.
For each response opportunity, by data tracking from our website and social media activity, we were able to showcase that it was our publicity at each step of the campaign which brought the library relocation and the proposals to peoples’ attention.
The reason that Jacksons Lane can say that the relocation plans are not financially viable, is because our architects and supporters outlined very coherent and professional reasons and stats, as to why this was the case.
The reason why Jacksons Lane now have the match fund offer, as they themselves have admitted to us, is thanks to our campaign.
Thank you to all of you who have supported us and backed our campaign.
Now the work begins to support our beloved local landmark library, in its existing Edwardian purpose-built building with a Friends Group who will continue to listen to local library users, of all ages and backgrounds.
We are collating the survey feedback and from this will be creating daytime, evening and weekend class offers for locals of all ages.
We have approached Haringey with ideas: Capital Growth who work with Queens Woods Community Gardens for instance and await their response.
We know we need to continue to support our much loved library and maintain user numbers and a vision for all generations and 21st Century library users.
Haringey gave £24,000 of our money to the relocation plans, with no discussion.
They have no plans to fund any new works or ideas we have for Highgate Library.
We think this was a terrific waste of our money. Our architects and experts highlighted the plans were unworkable for free.
Our plans are exciting and workable and we shall be sharing them with you all very soon.
Highgate Library is a community space, a free space, our space and we shall continue to work hard to support it’s access for all of us, by all of us, for many years to come.
Friends of Highgate Library – Shepherds Hill.