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All Souls in library dispute

A library donated over a century ago by All Souls College to the community of Kensal Rise faces closure after a High Court ruling supported Brent council’s decision to close it. The library was opened in 1900 by American author Mark Twain.

Campaigners are maintaining a 24-hour vigil outside the library to prevent workmen boarding up the building and taking the books away. It is believed that, owing to the covenant under which the library building was given to the community, ownership of the building will pass back to All Souls if the building ceases to be a library.

All Souls is one of the world’s most exclusive academic institutions: it has no undergraduate students, as its membership consists solely of Research Fellows.  Margaret Bailey, head of Brent Libraries SOS, said, “They have their Codrington library –  we should have our library”, reflecting her hope that even if ownership were to revert to All Souls, they would allow the building to continue to be used as a library.

The campaign to keep the library open has garnered much support and has raised over £35,000 towards legal fees. Thomas Seaman, the Estates Bursar for All Souls College, stated, “it is our hope that Brent Council and the campaigners can reach a solution which allows the building to keep on running as a library: this would be the ideal solution for us.”

Seaman added that the college has tried to persuade the council not to close the library by pointing out that the council will not, in any case, be able to sell the building or the land, since ownership will pass back to All Souls if the library is shut.

He warned, however, that if ownership were to revert to All Souls they would be unlikely to keep the library running, telling Cherwell, “All Souls is an institution committed to funding world-class research in Oxford. We cannot justify funding a library in Kensal Rise: that is the ambit of local government.”

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