DAWN OF THE ZOMBIE LIBRARY?
“They’ll be zombies – they’ll look a bit like libraries, but they will be dead” – campaigners
PLANS TO turn five of Lambeth’s 10 libraries into neighbourhood libraries are coming under increasing opposition – not only from library campaigners and amenity groups but from within Labour’s own ranks.
- Friends of Lambeth Libraries have castigated the consultation report as being “radically different” from the original version – and criticising the sudden appearance of Greenwich Leisure which would turn three of them into ‘healthy living centres’ with much smaller neighbourhood libraries included.
- Labour MP Kate Hoey publicly slams the consultation in relation to Waterloo library – which would move into a Christian charity centre under the proposals – as a ‘sham’. (see separate story)
- The chairman of the Norwood Society says Upper Norwood needs to be designated as a ‘town centre library’ with all the facilities that such a library needs. “It cannot continue as a pared-down library staffed largely by volunteers without proper professional supervision.”
The increasing protests come as Lambeth council’s cabinet meets to decide on the issue tonight (Monday) at Dunraven school, Leigham Court Road SW16 at 6.30pm.
Laura Swaffield, who chairs Friends of Lambeth Libraries, says: “The report only appeared at 5pm on October 2. “Many people just don’t know about it. “Ten days is grossly inadequate to get the message out.”And it contains a lot of surprises. “It’s radically different from the original version. “But Lambeth seems intent on forcing these huge changes through, with no public consultation.
“I’ve seen some dreadful ideas in my time” says Laura – who also chairs the national charity The Library Campaign. “But this is a whole new horror. “Three libraries will be shrunk to a fraction of their size in order to fit in a pay-to-use gym.”All five libraries under threat are packed all day with free activities for all ages. “With no staff, all this will go.
- “They’ll be zombies – they’ll look a bit like libraries, but they will be dead.“And there will be nobody to safeguard children, help people use the computers or find information. “Older people, disabled people, those with little English – in a deprived borough like Lambeth there’s a long list of people who often need support using a library.”The strange thing is that Lambeth had a proposal from library managers to retain all its libraries – with real, living staff – within the budget limits set. “They rejected it.”
In an open letter to Lambeth, Richard Lines, chairman of the Norwood Society, says: “Upper Norwood joint library (UNJL) has existed for 115 years as an independent library serving the needs of the Upper Norwood community. “It needs to continue with professional staff resourced by both Croydon and Lambeth.
“New sources of funding from the trust and sponsors are necessary and desirable, but these must not detract from the two boroughs’ prime responsibilities. “It cannot continue as a pared-down library staffed largely by volunteers without proper professional supervision.
“This growing area and important transport hub needs to be designated as a ‘town centre library’ with all the facilities that such a library needs.
“Literacy and reading are encouraged by meetings attended by well known authors and by a regular book group.
“There are outstanding events for children from the very young to teenagers, professionally run by library staff who make these events extremely popular with children and parents.
“UNJL has served our diverse community excellently for more than a century. “It needs to build on this success and to provide a wonderful library service for residents of all ages and backgrounds as the present century progresses.”
Upper Norwood Library Campaign spokesman Robert Gibson – who recently quit as co-chair of Upper Norwood Library Trust – said: “Steve Reed, MP for Croydon North (Labour) and former leader of Lambeth council, has written to me to tell me he ‘remains committed’ to the joint declaration he made with the Upper Norwood Library Campaign in April.
“This statement was also supported by Helen Hayes, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood (Labour).
“This is the bedrock basis for moving forward that the community of Crystal Palace has told its elected politicians time and time again.
“Crystal Palace residents of both Lambeth and Croydon boroughs will not settle for post code lottery discrimination of service provision.
“In times of austerity the residents of Crystal Palace will rally round to protect its community infrastructure but the current proposals of decommissioning the service with insufficient funding for full time professional library staff is setting up the Upper Norwood Library Trust to fail.”