LIBRARY: OPINION – “THE BIGGEST LOAD OF COUNCIL TRIPE I HAVE EVER, EVER READ”
I have, as a reporter on local newspapers, read hundreds and hundreds of council committee reports, attended hundreds of council committee meetings and scores of full council meetings.
I can therefore say with some experience that the libraries section of the report to next week’s Lambeth council cabinet is the biggest load of council tripe I have ever, ever read.
The report is riddled with contradictions and a TOTAL LACK of information on such important matters as financial considerations. (The report has no page numbers. Page numbers which follow relate to the page number of the report as printed out – total 51 pages).
How are councillors supposed to make decisions based on contradictory figures, contradictory declamations?
CONTRADICTIONS: “There are no proposed changes to the book stock which currently stands at 231, 677 books.” P8
But elsewhere: “the neighbourhood library service will offer a small selection of books” (p 24)
“the neighbourhood library …will provide a small selection of children’s books” (p28. This is offered up as a ‘mitigating action’.
The report “Safe and interesting spaces (libraries)” – written by Donna Wiggins who is described as “lead commissioner Healthier for Longer” – says: “The proposals overall are intended to have as positive an impact as possible given the context of reduced resources.”
Who does she think she’s kidding?
The report says Culture 2020 “sets out proposals for the delivery of an integrated, holistic approach to preventing poor health, which utilizes the borough’s culture, physical and sports assets to secure (sic) people are healthier for longer.”
A friend of mine who lives near the Carnegie – which is under threat of becoming a gym with neighbourhood library – has just emailed me to say: “We don’t need more community gym space twaddle etc we need LIBRARIES WITH BOOKS and LIBRARIANS.” (Her capital letters, not mine.)
The Wiggins report says: “No matter where you live in Lambeth you should be within 20 minutes average waling time from somewhere you can enjoy affordable activities, which will improve your health and wellbeing.”
The report says the average walking time between Upper Norwood and West Norwood is 38 minutes. If this is coming back from West Norwood, Donna clearly hasn’t walked up Central Hill.
Upper Norwood has been selected as a neighbourhood library even though it has the fourth-highest library membership in Lambeth. (8,172). Brixton has 17,124; Streatham 12,852; Clapham 11,819. Tate South at South Lambeth – also destined to become a neighbourhood library – is fifth with 4,576; Durning (Kennington) sixth with 4489 and West Norwood seventh with 3,931.
The report says the proposals seek to deliver a service which is ‘comprehensive and efficient’ which is required under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 while also achieving savings of xxx (no figure given) as a contribution to the overall reduction in the cultural services budget.”
How do they get round this?
At Upper Norwood there will also be a self-service machine “providing residents with access to borrowing a reduced selection of books as well as the ability to return them.” WOW!
(The report later admits – page 43 – “Library users with physical or learning difficulties may be more likely to experience difficulties with using the self-service technology in the neighbourhood libraries.) You couldn’t make it up.
Lambeth council will also be telling us what we can read: “Book stock will be managed by library service to reflect local need, culture and language” it says. (So no chance of reserving what YOU want to read.)
“ARE YOU TORIES IN DISGUISE…..?”: ONE
“Each neighbourhood library is within a reasonable distance of a town centre library either on foot, public transport or private car” says the report. (Shades of late June / early July 2012 when the-then Tory controlled Croydon council shut the Barnardo’s childrens’ centre off Westow Street.
A Croydon council press release at the time proclaimed: “”Only the one in Upper Norwood will cease to operate, and families will be able to use others nearby, as they already do now.” What this meant in reality was mums with prams / pushchairs having to walk along Church Road and halfway down South Norwood Hill.)
“ARE YOU TORIES IN DISGUISE……?”: TWO
Croydon council cabinet (Tory) agenda 17th September 2012:
One of four options put forward was: “Croydon ceases to fund the UNJL (Upper Norwood joint library) and instead makes some investment in other library services for residents in Upper Norwood and the surrounding area.” In other words walk down to South Norwood….and back. (Anerley library, open at the time, has since closed. (Croydon investing in neighbouring borough’s libraries? Jackanory, Jackanory….).
“Book stock in the neighbourhood libraries will be planned and managed by Lambeth library service to reflect local need, culture and language” it says.
If book stocks at Upper Norwood and the four other ‘neighbourhood libraries’ are being reduced then where will all the books go? They can’t all be shelved in the five planned town centre libraries.
The report says (page 8) that Lambeth’s book stock currently stands at 231, 677 books and that there are “no proposed changes” – but if five neighbourhood libraries are only going to have small amounts of books where are they going to put (let’s say, for argument’s sake) 80,000 books from five libraries. Landfill?
“All the town centre libraries are in locations which are easily accessible by public transport.” So is Upper Norwood.
GYM’LL FIX IT
Cost of installing gym equipment in any of the neighbourhood libraries? No mention
Income from gym equipment use in any of the neighbourhood libraries ? No mention.
The report admits there may be some impact caused by the proposals – not about the reduced selection of books which how library users may borrow but:
“Children and young people make extensive use of libraries particularly after school. (p23).
“There may be some concerns that because of the increased use of public transport and greater walking distances to town centre libraries in order to access a wide choice of books, that young people may be at greater risk of being involved in road traffic accidents and / or gang-related incidents.”
There you have it: Town centre libraries could be bad for your childrens’ health.
“Space will be continue to be made available for the provision of parent and toddler sessions in the neighbourhood libraries” says the report – without saying who will be running them. Probably volunteers….(see page 8).
The council will continue to run parent and toddler sessions such as story time, waggle and rhyme and rhyme time etc from the five town centre libraries.” BIG DEAL.
See Barnardo’s above – and obviously mums and kids would also be at greater risk of being involved in road traffic accidents. But strangely the report doesn’t mention that.
It does admit (p28) “Access is likely to be more difficult if they have other young children, are lone parents or experience economic, or social deprivation.)
TOWN CENTRE LIBRARIES WILL INCREASE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DEPRIVATION SAYS SHOCK REPORT
The report also admits the proposals:
- “may impact on residents with no or limited ICT skills that rely on library staff for support. (p 31)
- could “considerably reduce the number of access points for free Internet access, advice and support from library staff including the areas of high deprivation in the borough. (page 30)
- ” may…impact on people on low incomes and those with low digital literacy skills who need support with online job applications and benefit applications.
- “may be cost implications for some residents who need to travel further to access a wider range of books / activities that are not available from the neighbourhood libraries.” (My italics).
(Meanwhile you’ll all be pleased to know that – page 26 – “It is not anticipated that the neighbourhood library model will have a disproportionate impact on the grounds of sexual orientation.”) And that:
page 27: “The neighbourhood libraries (healthy living centres) will provide access to safe spaces for residents of all ages.
page 36: “It is not anticipated that the move to a neighbourhood library model will have a detrimental impact on the health of residents in the wards affected.
“In fact the establishment of the healthy living centres alongside the neighbourhood library should have positive impact on the health of the local community.” (Note: No details on what this positive impact will be, or anything to back the argument up – Ed.)
That word ‘alongside’ – by page 46 the report says the healthy living centres WILL HOUSE the neighbourhood libraries. (Just in case you were wondering.)
Page 50: “The healthy living centres will provide a range of accessible and affordable activities for the local community. Elderly and disabled residents will be able to access activities at reduced prices via a discount card.”
It’s not said how you get the discount card – probably you have to go and get them from a town centre library………
- NEXT MONDAY’S LAMBETH CABINET MEETING
has been moved to Dunraven school, 94-98 Leigham Court Road at 6.30pm