Squatters save Friern Barnet Library

At midday today, exactly five months since the occupation began, the community of Barnet took possession of the Friern Barnet Library. The local community – represented by the trustees of the library – are on the verge of agreeing a two-year lease with Barnet Council (LBB) to run the library with some funding from the council.

At the ceremony, squatters and supporters of the Occupy movement, who have been keeping the building open and enabling the local community to run a book lending service and community centre in the building, will hand it over to the trustees of the newly formed Friern Barnet Community Library (FBCL). They have now received a licence from LBB to be in the library for two weeks with the promise of renewal of the licence if necessary to negotiate a lease and other matters.

“This is a triumph for the local community,” said, one of the trustees of the new community library. “Our library was closed in April. And we were told the building would be ‘marketed’. Now we have our library back, with council financial support. We achieved this through constant campaigning, lobbying, and building a broad alliance including squatters, activists, supporters of the Occupy movement, local residents and library campaign groups.”

Housing and Squatting activist Phoenix, stated: “This campaign definitely shows the success of direct action and squatting. This is a seed of change. The whole country will soon be facing 80% of the rest of the cuts. They can take some inspiration from this direct action. We have collectively helped to save this library from the bulldozer and being sold off for development. We would like to see more arrangements between owners of the 1.4 million empty buildings in the UK and squatter/homeless and community groups, rather than the criminalisation being carried out by this government under the new law. A law we feel strongly is unjust,undemocratic and arbitry.”

He added:

“The extreme right of the conservative party is seeking to make squatting non-residential building also illegal. This, if it was
successful, would affect all our rights to protest by occupying/squatting space, and would make successful community squat occupations such as the library campaign illegal, thus further removing our rights to shelter and protest.”