“Neighbourhood Libraries” – An Expensive Failure
As a late April Fool joke on April 3, Lambeth Labour’s website boasted: “Community groups endorse Labour’s approach to libraries”
Labour’s “approach” is to drastically cut the space, resources and staff at four of its 10 libraries – and call them “exciting neighbourhood libraries”.
This was to save money.
But they have saved nothing so far – while spending well over £7m extra (including a £3.5m hand-out to commercial company Cineworld and a £3m gym built for GLL – with library buildings rent-free for both!)
Lambeth Labour says: “Local community groups have praised Lambeth Labour’s approach to working with them to protect library services in the borough.”
Who are these “community groups”?
The council didn’t ask the 10,000 people who signed our petition, or the 100s who have marched repeatedly in protest, or sent endless letters in vain, or the 2,000 people who jammed Windrush Square to support the Carnegie library occupation.
They didn’t ask any of the well-established Friends of libraries groups. They didn’t ask the eight community groups and the eight small businesses booted out of Carnegie Library with no notice and no help.
They didn’t ask the Carnegie Library Association, with 300+ voting members (including community groups!), who are seeing the building handed over not to them, but to an unelected “local trust” with no community contact at all – but close connections to Lambeth Labour.
The only “groups” they cite are two bodies being funded by Lambeth itself…
* the Oasis church Charitable Trust in Waterloo, which is paid to house a tiny “neighbourhood library”- and always made clear it did this reluctantly, as it was told (wrongly) that this was the only way to keep a library in Waterloo.
* the Upper Norwood Library Trust, whose “neighbourhood library hub” has run up enormous bills and is set to get even more money in future.
The “neighbourhood library” concept has been an expensive failure. The reality so far is that you get a vastly inferior library, or a much more expensive one. Or both. No wonder it’s impossible to find a single real “community group” who supports them.
WATERLOO NEIGHBOURHOOD LIBRARY
It is kind of Oasis to host the Waterloo library – but it is now a quarter of its former size, with a consequent reduction in stock and space. Because it is housed by a church, it is closed for prolonged periods over Christmas, Easter and other times.
It is the worst performing library in the borough. It has seen book issues plummet. Visitor figures are wildly distorted by a machine that counts in hundreds who don’t use the library at all.
Defend the 10 volunteers monitored the library, every hour it was open, for a week (full report here). It is unwelcoming, cramped, noisy, impossible to read or study in, and easy to steal from.
With staff on hand for a maximum two hours a day, group activities are almost zero and the atmosphere is bleak. There is no sense of community. There is nobody to help the many users who need a librarian’s advice and encouragement. There’s no help for those who have problems with the various machines – PCs, photocopier, self-issue machine etc. There is nobody even to make sure that children are safe from adult strangers.
UPPER NORWOOD NEIGHBOURHOOD LIBRARY
Upper Norwood library is pleasant, and busy. It has lost “only” a quarter of its former space and nearly all its library staff. BUT it has so far cost FAR MORE to run than it did as a proper library. Lambeth’s “neighbourhood library” concept – spun as a cost-saving measure – has failed. The planned contribution from Lambeth was to be £60,000pa (matched by Croydon).
The real total (so far) includes: £85,000 pa from Lambeth for running costs (but with almost no library staff); £120,000+ to fund a local trust to run the building (on top of previous expenditure); £285,000 to refurbish for new use; an extra unplanned librarian for 35 hours a week.
The paid staff have included a fund-raiser for two years, to make the library self-funded from April 2018. This has failed. The library will be funded for another three years – another £117,000.
Meanwhile, with more money than it has ever had, Upper Norwood was the only library in Lambeth to charge kids to attend its Christmas party (£15).
Defend the Ten Anniversary Protest launches the Lambeth Libraries Pledge
Nearly 2 years since Lambeth Council locked the doors of the Carnegie library, and the 10 day occupation, library users and campaigners gathered once again to protest for the full restoration of the library service, showing steely determination in the face of relentless council spin.
Weeks after opening the doors again, building work to make space for an unwanted GLL pay-to-use gym continues in the basement, there is no disabled access, and library staffing has been cut to 2 hours a day. As the council prepares to give away our library building to their Trust, our much loved library faces an even more insecure future.
Exactly one month before the May council elections our weekly countdown picture included all those featured up to now and many more!
We launched the Lambeth Libraries pledge:
and welcomed councillors and prospective candidates as they joined the protest and signed up…
starting with great library supporters Independent Labour Cllr Rachel Heywood…and Green Cllr Scott Ainsley and followed by prospective candidates…
Nick Edwards, Scott Ainsley, Rachel Heywood and Paul Rocks add their signatures and show their support for our ten libraries
watch this space as we update it with the names of all election candidates who sign up too…
and download a copy of the pledge
Ask your local candidates to make a commitment by adding their signatures and VOTE LIBRARY on May 3rd!
[many thanks to photographers Vivienne Lewis and Torla Evans]
More than 100 Joined Defend the 10 and library Friends on Thursday 15th February as Lambeth Council opened the Carnegie Library building to reveal it’s pre-election offer…
it opens then closes again….
It is almost 2 years since Lambeth council closed Carnegie library. After relentless campaigning by library Friends and Defend the 10 campaigners, the council was finally ready to unlock the doors…but as we predicted it wasn’t to welcome the return of our much loved and still needed library.
So what did we find?…
Having climbed the steps (the only way in now that they have removed the disabled access) we were greeted firstly by several banners proclaiming that we could look forward to increased opening hours with 2 hours a day of visiting professional library staff. Inside we found the library squeezed into the main space with all other internal doors closed, the once-garden door locked and shockingly, the fire exit blocked. Building and excavation work to install a gym in the basement has entailed removing the boiler which provided heating and hot water. Health and safety issues raised in advance by UNISON were confirmed when requests from reps to inspect the fire exit – previously blocked by calor gas cylinders – were refused by the GLL representative on site. So, within minutes of the grand opening, members of the public left the chilly, unsafe building. Finally allowed to take a look at the fire exit, the union reps discovered that the exit itself was firmly locked!!
A few hours earlier Cllr Jim (Gym) Dixon had taken the opportunity to be interviewed inside on his own to invite praise for the good job he’s done in protecting our library! He didn’t stay to meet his constituents and is not concerned about the very real issues that everyone has raised. The building doesn’t comply with fire safety regulations; it has no disabled access; its heating and toilet facilities are inadequate. That’s apart from the fact that post-election, the Trust will move the library into a corner room and that without professional, trained library staff we won’t have a library service.
Subsequent visitors to the library have been greeted by the constant presence of security guards and GLL customer care staff who can’t help them. The Reading Group which has been unable to meet in the library for so long, is refusing to do so as without disabled access, its members are prevented from access!
and then… last week… the temperature inside the building dropped to below 8 degrees (the legal minimum requirement is 16 degrees) so just days after unlocking the doors, the council have closed them once again!
Our arguments are as strong as ever and backed up by the evidence unearthed by the peoples Audit who have shown that the council’s destructive library plans have cost far more than keeping what we had! At Carnegie, money that could have been used to restore the library is being diverted into the pet project of the Councillors’ friends, the Carnegie Community Trust, while £millions have gone on excavating the basement for a pay-to-use gym that no one wants. In a rush to get their fake library in place before the local elections, Lambeth Council opened the building while major building works continue revealing huge issues with health and safety rather than a library service. It’s a really expensive dogs’s dinner and offers no future for the library. Jim Dixon and his fellow councilors should stop the spin and listen to the people.
Closures and down grading: Where do we stand now?
- Carnegie library closed April 2016. Library building to be given to a trust, GLL gym to be opened in the basement and GLL staff to oversee the library in the absence of trained library staff. The Council have given £millions to GLL to excavate the basement, tens of thousands for a Trust to take over the building and spent thousands on security. This simply dwarfs the cost of retaining or even restoring a full library service in that building.
- Minet library closed April 2016. A tiny ‘library’ space with just 2 hours trained library staff present per day, has recently been opened on a temporary basis.
- Waterloo library closed in 2016. The library has been replaced with an unstaffed, cramped space behind a café inside a Christian centre – library staff visit for 2hrs per day.
- Upper Norwood library building has been given to a Trust. Staffing has been massively reduced and will reduce further to less than one post. The library is in a smaller space with volunteers being recruited to replace trained library staff.
- Durning and Tate South Lambeth libraries face possible closure as they have only temporary funding.
- West Norwood library, housed temporarily in another building for several years since the roofing was stolen and the building was closed, is now to be re-opened as part of a joint building with Picturehouse cinemas (known for their anti-union practices and refusal to pay the London living wage). Despite the huge cost of £3.4 million, the library will be a fraction of its former size.
- Brixton, Clapham, Streatham libraries remain open but are struggling to cope with the numbers of users since the closure of other libraries.
Time and time again people who have been using the service have made the case for libraries, petitioning, marching, lobbying and protesting but the council has not listened. Their spin is astounding. They say they haven’t closed libraries, that their asset transfer plans to Trusts and their GLL gym plans are ensuring that our libraries are safe, that they’re extending library opening hours. What they don’t say is that their plans cost more than keeping the library service going or that they haven’t saved the money they told us they had to save. Lambeth council’s destructive plans actually cost more than the original library service ever did! They don’t share the facts behind their deals with GLL or their friendly Trust.
As library users and campaigners know, a library is not just a building but is the service provided by the professional staff, the librarians and library staff, who work within them. The statutory definition of a library includes trained staff and Lambeth continues to be under investigation by the DCMS (Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport).
Lambeth Council thinks we should be satisfied with their fake libraries. As the Lambeth library campaign, Defend the 10, we refuse to accept the spin and will continue to fight for all our libraries, for a restoration of a full library service in all of our library buildings. The campaign continues!
The Carnegie library garden has been wrecked!
Breaking several promises, Lambeth council’s contractors made an early morning start on 5 December despite the protests of local residents.
Here’s the result.
2. Building cherished, & garden extensively developed by local people, FREE.
3. Lambeth council trashes building and garden AT COST OF OVER £1.5m.
The council is still fighting tooth and nail to conceal how this destructive “plan” was initiated.
These trees are to be felled this week, ruining forever Carnegie library’s peaceful reading garden.
Fobbed off with standard emails
Friends of Carnegie Library have drawn attention to the standard email reply received by people who have written to local councillor Jim Dickson. The Friends have written their own reply, which cuts through the misinformation and tells the real story of what is happening at Carnegie. Read it here!
Jim Dickson’s opinion piece in The South London Press, to which he refers in his email.
Carnegie Library: The eve of destruction?
CALLING ON ALL LIBRARY SUPPORTERS…
- Come to the candlelit protest – procession and vigil Thursday 31st 8.30pm (see event details)
- Write again to the council! With excavation work about to begin any day now, express your opposition to the Carnegie plan to Lib Peck, and her councillors :
Michelle Agdomar firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Dickson email@example.com
Jack Holborn JHolborn@lambeth.gov.uk
Leader of the Council:
Lib Peck: firstname.lastname@example.org
Councillor with responsibility for libraries:
Sonia Winifred: SWinifred@lambeth.gov.uk
- Be ready to take part in next actions….details to be announced!
Cllr. Sonia Winifred has replied to the press release issued recently by Defend the Ten. Her reply has been published in full by Brixton Buzz, and you can read it here
She lists what Carnegie Library will offer when it re-opens (when?) but as Defend the Ten point out in a barnstorming reply, the offer represents ‘a much diminished service’. In their reply, Defend the Ten go on to highlight:
- ever-lengthening delays to the plans
- ever-increasing costs to the plans
- the lack of a contract with GLL
- dodgy dealings with GLL
- the lack of a revenue stream from GLL, who would pay no rent for years
- the lack of transparency about the asset transfer process
- despite CCT’s doubt about the gym plan, and despite the lack of a contract with GLL, the continued determination to dig out the basement
- a decline in the proposed library service, with less space available for books, and limited staff time
They say: ‘A library is not a library without professional staff on hand to help people use it. As a librarian, you know this very well. The council’s own equality impact assessment spelled out in detail all the vulnerable groups who would be disadvantaged – families, children, older people, poor people, disabled people, those needing help with IT… and on and on. Longer opening hours don’t make up for any of this.’
Brixton Buzz have also published the reply from Defend the Ten in full, read it here
CARNEGIE CHAOS GETS EVEN CRAZIER!
We thought the Carnegie Library situation could not get more crazy, but…
Now Carnegie Community Trust (the trust favoured by the council for asset transfer – in essence just five people dominated by Labour insiders, with no democratic input or community engagement at all) is saying the whole Carnegie Library plan is rubbish. In their open letter to Councillor Sonia Winifred, Cabinet Member for Equalities and Culture, CCT:
– alludes to a ‘side deal’ with GLL that could not be legally accepted
– castigates the council for not working either with itself or the community
– slates the spending of £1.2m on excavation as a huge waste that jeopardises the future
– says wrecking the garden is sloppy planning, and unnecessary
– accuses the council of ‘political expediency’ in rushing through a bad plan for election time in 2018
– admits the whole useless CCT project has so far cost over £100,000
– and more!
This is what the council’s intimate friends are now saying.
Defend the 10 has unequivocally opposed the whole insane idea from the start.
CURRENT CATASTROPHE AT CARNEGIE LIBRARY IS BEYOND BELIEF!
Residents are furious as the Council tells them they will spend £2m to dig up the building and further outraged as Lambeth Labour gives public library building to their friends
Councillor Jim (Gym) Dixon called residents living in the streets next to the doomed library to a meeting to tell them how the works will progress. Local resident, Gilly, has written in response.
Read her letter here: Letter to Gym Dickson and others (3)
Further details can be found here: www.newsfromcrystalpalace.co.uk
Kids for Libraries protest as the summer holidays start
Young library campaigners protested on Thursday on the steps of the Carnegie library on the day before the school term ends. For the second year running there will be no library service for them and their families and no Summer Reading Challenge. Local children chalked messages to the Council on the ground, painted banners and added messages to the railings…
Defend the Ten at the Lambeth Country Show
No to austerity: YES to libraries!
The General Election result showed that people want to see a challenge to the cuts in our public services and an end to austerity and inequality. Defend the 10’s post-election statement highlights the severe inequality in Lambeth, reiterates the costs of the closures and changes to the libraries locally, and urges Lambeth council to reconsider its plans. Read it here
Dear Lib Peck…
Defend the 10 have written an open letter to Lib Peck, leader of Lambeth Council. Signed with over 80 signatures, the letter highlights the value libraries give to their communities, and urges Lambeth Council to stand up against austerity cuts. A reply is awaited!
Dear Helen Hayes…
More letters – this time between Suman Nambiar, member of Friends of Carnegie Library and Herne Hill resident, and Helen Hayes, Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Dulwich and West Norwood. Suman highlights concern at the background to the deal between Lambeth Council and GLL and the failure of the Council to seriously consider plans for the Mutual, as well as the ongoing concerns about the future plans for the library, including lack of clarity about the level of librarian provision and book stocks. This is especially worrying as books were seen being removed from Carnegie library early in May. Suman also raises concern about Carnegie library’s garden, where there is reportedly an outbreak of Japanese Knotweed.
‘We’re still here!’ News from 2nd May public meeting
A packed public meeting at Longfield Hall urged Lambeth council to re-open Minet and Carnegie Libraries now. Campaigners from Defend the 10 gave updates and the audience contibuted their comments and ideas. It has become clear that secret discussions took place between the council and GLL to install gyms in local libraries long before these were revealed to local residents- the story recently featured in Private Eye. Read more here
Chaos at Carnegie
Laura Swaffield gives an update of issues at Carnegie, highlighting the continued uncertainty, damage to the building resulting from neglect, and the waste of resources…
Libraries and Section 106 – where’s the money?
In this article, Ben Rymer, who sits on the committee of the Friends of Tate South Lambeth library, highlights the issue of regeneration and frequent failure of London Councils to support libraries with funds from developers. This issue affects Lambeth’s libraries and those of many other London boroughs. Look out for more on this in future posts.
First anniversary of the Carnegie Occupation
250 local people turned out on April Fool’s Day to ridicule the crazy closure of the Carnegie Library in Herne Hill. Banners and fancy dress made the point.
Speakers included comedian Jeremy Hardy and authors Stella Duffy OBE,Toby Litt and Barbara Ellis. The crowd made a human chain around Carnegie Library as a symbol of protection. The fun, family event was a huge success. Read more here.
The Peoples Audit libraries chapter is now released and shows that Lambeth Council has serious questions to answer over its baffling libraries-into-gyms plan. Read it here
- Library campaigners show support for the Ritzy workers Library campaigners joined a lively solidarity rally for the Ritzy workers who are fighting for the London Living Wage. Not only have their employers Picturehouse /Cineworld continued to refuse to pay their staff the LLW, but they have recently sacked 4 of the union reps for standing up for their rights! ...
- ‘A charitable social enterprise for all the community’? Open Letter to Mark Sesnan, Managing Director of GLL 1st June 2017 Dear Mark Sesnan Please withdraw from the disastrous scheme to downgrade the Carnegie library and install a GLL/Better gym. There is still time. Negotiations are dragging on. The project is many months behind schedule. It is clearly in chaos. The Carnegie library was thriving, ...
- Letters to Helen Hayes 4 May, 2017 Dear Helen, Thank you for requesting via Twitter that we get in touch with you on email. I will not rehash the entire sordid history of how Lambeth Council have forced through a deal with GLL and a gym in the Carnegie Library at Herne Hill, but I will summarize ...
At Brixton Library: Fortnightly campaign meetings at Brixton library ALL WELCOME
At Carnegie Library: Wednesday 7pm: weekly get-together for supporters, yellow ribbon tying on the railings.
At Minet Library: Saturdays, 2-4pm, gather outside Minet Library for tying ribbons and messages, gardening, sharing news and updates, and hooting with Wendy!
!!! Don’t Steal Our libraries t-shirts are available £5 – contact us at email@example.com
About our campaign to save Lambeth’s libraries
In October 2015 Lambeth Council has announced it would decommission half of our libraries. Minet, South Lambeth, Durning, Upper Norwood, Carnegie and Waterloo
It was proposed that Minet, Carnegie and Tate South Lambeth libraries should be turned into gyms, run by leisure centre contractor GLL. The proposal was for these to have so-called ‘lounges’ with a small selection of books – but no staff. Upper Norwood Joint Library would also lose its staff. Lambeth is calling these unstaffed spaces ‘neighbourhood libraries’. We do not accept that such provision can be called libraries and therefore have been campaigning against these closures. We predicted that the remaining libraries, already under pressure, will become overcrowded, staff and book stock will be reduced.
Much has happened since October last year and there is still a lot to campaign for. Tate South Lambeth received a stay of execution after residents used a consultation as well as protests and petitions to express overwhelming opposition to the conversion to a gym. However its future, and the future of Durning Library also in the North of Lambeth remains uncertain.
Again, following campaigning and in the face of a local byelection, Upper Norwood Library had its lifetime extended, but the building has been handed to a trust and there will be only one librarian instead of five.
1st April marked the day when the doors of the historic and loved Minet and Carnegie libraries would close to the public. With communities unable to accept their closure, Carnegie library was occupied in what became a high-profile action that shamed the decision makers. The occupation received overwhelming local support and library campaigners far and wide linked their own struggles to that action.
Minet and Carnegie Libraries remained closed during the crucial exam period and throughout the summer holidays when thousands of children were denied access to their much loved Summer Reading Challenge. Defendthe10 are still fighting for common sense to prevail and for these libraries to be re-opened to the public. Recent FOI requests have shown that it costs more for the libraries to be closed than open to the public. Read more in an article by Peter Walker for the Guardian. Other FOI requests have shown the that Lambeth’s plans for the gyms and unstaffed libraries are in disarray. These buildings that belong to the public have their doors locked and expensive security arrangements in place to keep local communitities out. Local Labour Party Councillor Rachel Heywood dared to speak up for the libraries and for common sense. From her colleagues in the Council she received a 6 month sanction; from local people and library users she has gained much support and respect.
Lambeth had put its plans for the gyms on hold until while they explored options for the location of the Lambeth Archives (currently at Minet library). All the more reason to re-open the locked libraries. Unfortunately however they are showing no signs of ditching their hugely expensive plan to spend millions on a deal with leisure company GLL to turn our libraries into gyms. A planning applications committee meeting, sited miles away from Carnegie library and the community it serves, has granted permission to GLL to begin work at Carnegie library, despite the hundreds of objections submitted. We are clear that there is no future for a library service if this goes ahead. Quite a part from the structural damage to the building and the garden, having an unstaffed space with books and computers in a fee-paying gym is not a library and in no way provides a library service.
Waterloo library closed its doors on the very day of the Summer Reading Challenge launch party for children! It has been replaced by an almost unstaffed facility in the Christian Oasis Centre. The Upper Norwood library building has been handed over to a trust and has the equivalent of one librarian now. Like all the smaller libraries its funding is set to finish in 2018.
Even in a time of cuts, we do not believe that closing libraries is sensible or necessary. The library service is of immeasurable value yet costs so little. We are dedicated to resisting these plans and coming up with alternatives of our own. An alternative plan by Lambeth’s own head of libraries which would have achieved the savings the council wanted to make and kept all 10 libraries open was first ignored, and then rejected by Lambeth Council. They said it would take too long! Nearly a year since the closure of two of our libraries they have failed to provide their own plan, have actually saved nothing and are perversely still proceeding to spend millions on a dodgy deal with GLL. Meanwhile our communities are denied services in the most deprived area of the borough.
Our libraries—which last year had 1.3 million visits—provide a vital service, helping people to access information, benefits, government services as well as books, the Internet and activities for children. Libraries are essential for access to information and education. With Minet and Carnegie closed, the remaining library spaces- at Streatham, Clapham, Brixton and at the small temporary library in West Norwood – are even more under pressure than usual.
We are library users and staff working together to save Lambeth’s library service.
Contact us at:
Come to one of our fortnightly public meetings or other events
See the events page
Display a window poster
Sign the campaign petition
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