Formed in 1998, the Friends of West Hampstead Library (FoWHL) is a community organisation consisting of around 400 library users – mostly local residents but also people who work in West Hampstead or are passing through.
Our main aim is to ensure that, at a time of deep cuts in council budgets, the library remains open, and continues to provide the level of core services that library users need and want, and which local residents fund through their council tax.
Like the library itself, membership of FoWHL is free. To become a FoWHL member and receive notice of all future events, or to send an email, click here
If you are not on email, keep an eye on the FoWHL noticeboard (by the lift, inside the library). Or follow us on @FoWHLNW6
Camden Leader visits West Hampstead library and finds it just the ticket
West Hampstead Library received a welcome boost on October 25 when Councillor Georgia Gould, the recently appointed Leader of Camden Council, paid her first visit to the library, meeting representatives of both FoWHL and the library staff.
Joined by West Hampstead ward Councillor and FoWHL supporter, Phil Rosenberg, FoWHL Secretary Jeannie Cohen, and two officers from Camden, Cllr Gould called into the library as part of her long term aim to visit every ward in Camden and meet with community groups. Her first stop in our area had been the Sidings Community Association, followed by a sheltered housing association in Lymington Road.
Admitting that she had never visited West Hampstead library before, Cllr Gould appeared genuinely enchanted by it, listened intently as FoWHL's representatives explained how much the library is valued by the community, and how FoWHL's membership continues to grow. Jeannie also emphasised the library's importance as the last Council building in West End Lane,.
Also up for discussion was Camden's putative scheme for adopting the so-called 'Highgate model' for West Hampstead Library (whereby FoWHL or a local community association would become partners with Camden in running the library, using volunteers to supplement professional librarians). Reflecting months of discussion on this sensitive issue, Jeannie explained why FoWHL does not believe that this model will work in West Hampstead, not least because of layout of the building and the lack of space (whereas Highgate Library has its own large function room for hire). FoWHL also believes that recruiting volunteers from amongst West Hampstead residents, many of whom work full time or are transient, would be a tall order. At the same time we were able to assure Cllr Gould that despite the building's limitations, our event schedule offers a beacon of cultural life in the area.
Above all Jeannie emphasised that although we know how tough things are with libraries in other boroughs – Barnet and Haringey being the closest examples – uncertainty over the future of West Hampstead Library feels never ending, with new threats seemingly always on the horizon. This is one reason why the Friends group was formed nearly 20 years ago, and how it was able to swing into action in 2015 when Phil Rosenberg's petition to Save West Hampstead Library gained such widespread support.
Discussions apart, Cllr Gould was keen to look round the library, and was introduced to library manager Celia Hayre by FoWHL Treasurer Simon Mulliner, who made it quite clear what a great job our librarians do, despite all the pressures.
Down in the children’s library, which clearly impressed Cllr Gould, Celia made a point of explaining why having a separate library for children was so important, if only for the purpose of insulating other library users from the excitement and clamour of young book lovers!
The tour concluded with a look around the library offices and the car park at the rear, before Cllr Gould headed off for yet more meetings with West Hampstead community groups.
Overall, FoWHL's representatives were left with the impression that Cllr Gould is a sympathetic individual, committed to the principle of public libraries. For our part, we hope she and her cabinet will back up this commitment, and, of course, that we will see her again soon. On which note, Jeannie made a point of inviting the Leader to our next event, with Derek Jacobi in December.
Please note that if you are interested in learning more about the current situation with the library, and hear the latest on any plans for its future, there will a full discussion at our next AGM, to be held in February.
Jacobi evening now fully booked
With apologies to all those who have tried to book a place at our Evening with Derek Jacobi, the event is now fully booked. In an unprecedented show of demand, all 80 places were booked within a few hours of members being alerted. There is now a waiting list, should there by any cancellations, but obviously we cannot make any promises.
Thanks to all those who booked so promptly. And in answer to a query as to why we don't hire a larger venue for such high profile events, chair Simon Inglis says, 'The whole point of FoWHL is to promote the library. Also, if we have to hire somewhere else, we have to start charging for tickets, and whilst that may not be an issue for some members, for others it is.'
So, alas, short of a new and larger library being built in West Hampstead – which is of course highly unlikely – FoWHL has to work as best we can with what we have.
Meet Libby – and start reading
Did you know that as well as thousands of books, journal, CDs and DVDs, West Hampstead Library now has a selection of e-books and audiobooks available for you, at no charge?
All you need is a Camden Libraries ticket, and an app called Libby.
Once you have signed in as a West Hampstead Library user, you can download the books instantly, using whichever device suits you best.
Click here to learn more
And when you have tried it, please let us know how you got on, and what you think.
• Please note this website supersedes our previous website at www.fowhl.co.uk