PRESS RELEASE: Carnegie Occupiers rebuttal to Lambeth Council

PRESS RELEASE – For immediate release

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According to the BBC, Lambeth Council has described the occupation as “obstructive” and “misleading”, as the library’s closure is “only temporary”.

Are we misleading?

By its own admission, Lambeth Council will never re-open these buildings as proper libraries. In the Council’s own words (1): “Both Carnegie and Minet will be retained, but we can only afford to do that by changing the nature of the services there. In partnership with Greenwich Leisure Limited, the social enterprise organisation that runs Lambeth’s leisure centres, these two libraries will offer fitness centres alongside some library services.”

When they re-open, stock, PCs and space would be much reduced. There would be no staff on site at all to help people. And according to Unison, it would be too unsafe for children to visit unaccompanied. Campaigners say: “That’s not a library service, so the library is closing.”

Are we obstructive?

If Lambeth council had had their way, the library would now be completely closed and empty of poeple. We are keeping it clean, bright and full of books. The council is obstructing the community from coming in.

On the other hand, campaigners have spent 6 months trying to set up a constructive relationship with Lambeth, including presenting an alternative plan for a staff/community mutual trust, that had the support of all. Instead, there has been no negotiation, staff have been on strike and we have had to occupy the library to try and get our voices heard. The chess club and all the other free other community activities now have no place to go. When the buildings re-open, free activities run by volunteers will have to pay to hire space. Their futures are obstructed.

The occupation is a last resort to obstruct the council in their quest to destroy our local library and replace it with an unwanted GLL gym with a few books. We want them to work with the community on the alternative plan for the community/staff mutual, which we all support. This would save all our 10 libraries – and cost FAR LESS than the ridiculous GLL gym plan.

On the BBC, a council spokesman said the Carnegie “would reopen to the public, for longer hours, in early 2017 and will have a neighbourhood library service, health and fitness facilities and space for community groups to use”.

Longer hours to access very little! Little stock, no staff. We don’t even know if there can be maintainable IT facilities. Because there will be no staff, it will be too unsafe for kids to visit at any time! In 2014 a consultation took place in which the idea of a gym at the Carnegie was explicitly rejected. And those “community groups” – now run by volunteers, helping people for free – will have to pay to hire space.

According to today’s Financial Times Lambeth council say that “libraries tend to have articulate, educated supporters while other local services do not”. We have heard this argument time and time again. On the contrary, anyone who visits public libraries regularly will see how they are used by all sections of the community and it is precisely this diversity and openness that we value. Nobody needs a referral or appointment to use a library. Lambeth council’s equalities impact assessment (report to Cabinet, 12 October 2015) frankly admits there is no way to mitigate the future loss to a long list of vulnerable people.

We abhor the cuts to all local authority services. But Lambeth is hiding the truth. The alternative proposal would save money while continuing to offer a safe, staffed space for vulnerable people and all library users. The GLL plan costs money to Lambeth who are paying for the refurbishment and backing the first year of operation.

Caroline Christian Paediatric psychotherapist “Lambeth is the borough with most inequality and poverty. Under 16s use the libraries evenings and at weekends to learn and to complete their homework.”

Rashid Nix Green Party GLA Lambeth and Southwark candidate May 2016 “This is a complete betrayl of the people of Lambeth. There was a time when barbarians destroyed and burned libraries, nowadays its the Labour politicians who carry out these acts of cultural vandalism. “

Steve Martin Writer and historian “This occupation really needs to be done in all libraries. It is amodel of the sort of action that is needed nationwide. Its brilliant to see the community standing up for libraries – public assets that should be safeguarded.”

Jeremy Clyne former councillor for streatham hill and former lib dem culture spokesperson on Lambeth Council “The council wanted to shut Carnegie Library before, and it was defeated by a strong and united campaign. Now they have done the unthinkable and locked the door. I’m sure that even now – if enough people come together to fight it – this stupid and short-sighted decision can be revised.”

Greta Thompson age 18, Year 13 student “Carnegie has taken me through 11 GCSE’s and 4 As levels. Now when I face the most important exam season of my life (A2 levels to get into uni) this amazing study space is being stolen. Not only is it heatbreaking, but grade threatening!”

(1) Statement March 2016: http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/lambeth-libraries-faq

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Contact information: Laura Swaffield 07914 491145 Michaela Loebner 07877 395768

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