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Volunteers hope to boost library use with ‘not just for children’ message

'Belsize Park used to be a bohemian place with artists and writers'

21 May, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

Mark Carroll, library volunteer, with Maria Colucci

A LIBRARY saved from closure by volunteers has begun a drive to encourage adults to come inside, amid concerns that its seen as a place mainly for children.

The Belsize Community Library has extended its opening hours and is launching art workshops and a book club as part of a “new vision” to attract older users.

Maria Colucci, the manager of the library in Antrim Grove, said: “It is seen as a children’s library, which is great, but I want it to be for adults too. It should be a cultural meeting point and a place to socialise with your neighbours. With our new vision, I want to change the way people see the library.”

She added: “Someone phoned up here once because they lost their keys and said ‘I lost them in the playground area’. I don’t want to it to be seen as a playground anymore.”

Camden stopped running the library amid bud­get cuts in 2013, but it was kept open by Swiss Cottage charity The Winch after a campaign to prevent its closure. Unpaid volunteers now keep it running from Monday to Wednesday. New opening hours will see a later 8pm finish on Wednesday.

Keats Community Library in Hampstead and Primrose Hill Library were also handed to volunteers six years ago. Camden’s other libraries are still run by the council.

“People fought to keep this place open,” said Ms Colucci, a former cinema manager who previously worked at a library in Hackney. “At first it was just open Monday and Tuesday. Now we are open Wednesdays. Hopefully we can open it for more days soon.”

The library held an event with Ha-Joon Chang, author of 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism and Bad Samaritans, which was banned in South Korea in 2008, on Thursday, launching the library’s Banned Book Club which will take place once a month discussing books that have been censored in other countries or in the past.

“Belsize Park used to be a bohemian place with artists and writers,” said Ms Colucci. “Now there are lawyers and bankers moving in, but there is still a bohemian nuance around and artists are still here.”

She added: “We have lots of second-hand books and donations but are raising funds to buy brand new books for our Summer Reading Challenge encouraging children to read six library books during the summer holiday.”


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