PRESS RELEASE: 8th April including court statement


Carnegie Library Occupation reaches day 9 with court case and celebration


Today, April 8th, Lambeth Council’s application for an Interim Possession Order for the Carnegie Library in Herne Hill will be heard. Below is a collective statement of our reasons for the occupation.

At 1pm the there will be a celebration outside Carnegie Library. Whatever the court’s verdict, we will celebrate our success, and share the wonderful food we have been given with the local community.

On Saturday, 9th April a demonstration gathers at Carnegie Library at 11.30am, marches past nearby Minet Library – also closed on March 31st – or can be joined when we get to Windrush Square, Brixton at about 1pm.

We are expecting a big event. Lambeth’s arrogance and inefficiency extend well beyond libraries. We have issues in common with many Lambeth residents suffering from the give-away of public assets to commercial firms, the demolition of people’s homes and the loss of much-loved local landmarks in favour of expensive flats for wealthy outsiders.

The occupation at Carnegie Library, Herne Hill, is still strong and our supporters are seen and heard far afield. We are tired, but buoyed up by the support of hundreds of people, from all over Lambeth and beyond.

One of the many generous donations was a fish and chip supper for all which was delivered on Wednesday evening by the owner of local business Olleys Fish and Chips who tweeted: “It’s my pleasure supporting the community. We all are the community. Without each other there is no community”.

Every day, a constant stream of visitors thank us for what we are doing – for everyone, and ask how they can help. We are amazed at the range of our supporters.

Students from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts were in central London showing their support for the Carnegie Occupation by visiting GLL premises with banners and placards.

Liverpool fans at Dortmund unfurled a Save Carnegie banner yesterday, 7th April around the German city. Local team Dulwich Hamlet will do the same at their match on Saturday.

On Wednesday, 6th April, local writers Stella Duffy and Toby Litt set out to collect 110 signatures backing the occupation (one for every year the Carnegie has served us). They had to shut off the deluge at 220 signatures. On the list are Neil Gaiman, Colm Toibin, Meg Rosoff, Sophie Kinsella, Ali Smith, David Mitchell, Freya North, Gillian Slovo Julian Barnes, Kate Mosse, Linda Grant, Nick Hornby, Ian Rankin, Jake Arnott, Philip Hensher, Sarah Waters… and many more.

Other literary personalities that have visited include Alex Wheatle, Francesca ‘Horrid Henry’ Simon and illustrator Sarah McIntyre.

We have supported the Junior Doctors Strike Wednesday, 6th April. We made a banner to support the BMA strikers at King’s College Hospital. As we are trapped in the building by the council, we gave it to some visitors to take along. Later the doctors dropped in and spoke on the steps, to support us.

Each day there has been a continuous pot-luck of entertainers on the library steps: poets, singers, artists, musicians, comedians, performers and choirs. St Saviour’s, the nearest church, sent two guitarists to lead a sing-song.

Messages of support have come in from all over the world, including Canada, France, USA, Tanzania and Switzerland.

Despite all of this support, Lambeth Council won’t budge. Laura Swaffield, Chair of Friends of Lambeth Libraries and an occupier said: “Lambeth council remains at odds with everyone else, and at odds with common sense. It is completely out of touch. And it seems determined to remain so. For months it has ignored what thousands of residents have been telling it. That’s why we were finally forced to occupy the Carnegie.”

“Nobody wants four well-used libraries to be reduced to a fraction of their current size, with no staff at all. Nobody wants two of these four to be converted into gyms at huge expense (likely to exceed £6m).”

Carnegie Library:
188 Herne Hill Rd, London SE24 0AG
Bus P4 from Brixton stops outside, 68 and 468 from Herne Hill or West Norwood

Why we occupied the library:

Statement to be presented at the hearing for Lambeth Council’s Interim Possession Order on Carnegie Library at 11.30am, Lambeth County Court.

On Thursday 31st March faced with the prospect of the Carnegie Library closing its doors for the last time, hundreds of library users from all over Lambeth filled the library to both celebrate the wonderful achievements of librarians, libraries and community supporters, but also to show their strength of feeling against Lambeth’s plan to convert the building into a gym, leaving just an unstaffed lounge with a bookshelf. When 6pm arrived – the scheduled closing time of the library – everyone remained in the library unwilling to let go of this last chance to be in this precious, beautiful and friendly community building or say goodbye to the library staff.

As the evening progressed a the mood of sadness and frustration turned into a determination to remain in the building in a last attempt to secure it for ongoing community use as a library. We decided to stay in the library for as long as it might take to finally bring our elected representatives to an honest and open discussion about an alternative future for the libraries.

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. We believe that libraries are essential for access to information and education. On October 2nd 2015, Lambeth Council announced their intention to close one of the borough’s libraries, remove staff from another and turn 3 more into fee-charging gyms in partnership with leisure services provider GLL. This was despite a long consultation with members of the public on a totally different idea.

Library users’ groups, as well as staff, were vehemently opposed to this plan from the start. All democratic processes have been pursued to try to enter into a constructive dialogue with our Councillors to try to reach a new, sustainable and appropriate solution that would secure the library service in ways that maintain the aims of the 100s years old library service. We have organised delegations to council meetings and written to councillors and MPs. We have worked with the Library Head of Service to produce an alternative plan which was rejected on criteria that have never been applied to the gyms plan.

The staff and user groups of all 10 libraries have worked tirelessly together to provide an alternative way forward. Library staff have been on strike on 4 different days. However we have all been treated with stock answers and evasion, and sometimes even contempt, by our elected representatives.

This occupation took place because, as a local community and a borough-wide campaign group, we have exhausted all possible democratic channels to make our voices heard over the issue of library closures in Lambeth.

We have been supported by extraordinary and generous donations of food, toiletries and bedding from the community, who simply want to see their local libraries opened again. We have taken care of our surroundings and kept the library in the condition in which we entered it. We do not seek to occupy the building indefinitely but we do think that the use of the building, together will all 10 of Lambeth’s libraries, should and could remain in use by the community, as fully staffed libraries, continuing to provide education, advice, support and shelter to all sections of the community on an equal basis.

Defendthe10 campaign,
Carnegie Library Occupiers