2. The Friends of Lambeth Libraries say think again

The Friends of Lambeth Libraries -– the umbrella group for library friends groups – has issued this response to the Council’s proposals.

LAMBETH LIBRARIES IN PERIL!

Friends of Lambeth Libraries speaks for libraries and communities all over the borough.

We are appalled by Lambeth’s new ‘Culture 2020’ proposals for libraries. As the news spreads, it is being greeted with horror everywhere.

The core proposal is a drastic reduction from 10 to just five libraries – for a population of 310,000 (and growing). Large areas of the borough – especially in the north – will have nothing..

* Two libraries (Waterloo and Minet) are to be closed, and the buildings sold off.

* Three (Carnegie, Durning, Upper Norwood) are to be abandoned to anyone in ‘the community’ who wants to try running them – a model that is proven usually to fail.

* The remaining five (Brixton, Clapham, Streatham, Tate South Lambeth, West Norwood) will be put under heavy pressure, and are themselves subject to cuts.

* The outstanding archives service will be shoe-horned into Brixton library, wrecking both.

Lambeth needs all its libraries. And it needs them all to be run properly – by professionals.

Lambeth needs to ask itself –

* Can it afford to replace all the services the libraries now provide (on the cheap)?

* Does it realise that libraries support its own priorities in health, education, digital access, business, employment, family support, literacy, and more?

* Is it happy to deprive its residents of all this – and pay for the consequences?

* Does it have any idea what it is doing?

The service itself has been under-funded for decades. Yet it is improving on all measures, and expanding its activities dramatically. Thanks to enormous efforts by staff, it is winning awards and government praise.

The libraries’ beautiful buildings have been neglected for years, almost to the point of destruction. Lambeth has recently invested in repairing this damage – and it is paying off, with attractive spaces that people want to use. Much of this is now to be wasted.

The service has already lost £870,000 pa (almost a third of its budget) in two years – on top of cuts in previous years. Now a further £800,000 pa is to be cut.

The service is so cost-effective that this will have a devastating effect on what it can provide for the communities that need it more than ever.

Yet this sum is a tiny fraction of Lambeth’s total budget. The Culture 2020 document itself identifies large sums that could be available for libraries. We have no doubt that more sensible savings could be made to save the service.

The financial plan to support so-called ‘community libraries’ simply doesn’t add up. They are being set up to fail.

Lambeth’s plans are totally flawed – and show that it has no idea what public libraries do for the council and its residents.

Some of the things Lambeth Libraries provide:

* Lambeth is the only borough in the whole of England where book issues are rising.

* All libraries provide free internet access (and support) – a lifeline to the poorest, as government services for job-seekers, benefits claimants etc increasingly go online.

* Lambeth is the only library service in England that is pioneering access to reading for people with dyslexia or sight problems. This is attracting high praise from government – and interest from other councils that want to adopt the scheme.

* All libraries have WiFi (50% of England’s libraries do not).

* The service has extensive online resources (all free) for 24/7 enquiries, reference, business information, academic research, magazines and e-book lending.

* All libraries have mother-and-toddler groups, giving vital literacy training, and distribute free books to pre-schoolers. There are special packs for children with disabilities – deafness, motor skills or sight problems, and learning difficulties.

* The 2014 summer reading scheme involved more children than ever (26% up on 2013).

* Lambeth has a huge programme of popular free festivals – run at no cost to the borough – including LGBT Month, Black History Month, Readers & Writers, and Lambeth Heritage.

* Lambeth libraries also run: special collections on health, homework clubs, computer coding clubs, older people’s activities, English conversation classes, reading groups (including special groups for children, teens, prison inmates and people with autism), art exhibitions, health checks, careers advice, legal advice, silver surfers, Friends’ activities and talks…. and more!

All this – and more – is at risk. The people of Lambeth deserve better.

One Reply to “2. The Friends of Lambeth Libraries say think again”

  1. Surely the fact that Lambeth is the only borough in England where book issues are rising says an enormous amount. If literacy is rising and more people are reading, including children, we should do everything in our power to keep ALL libraries open.

    Reading broadens the mind and leads to better understanding in the community and of the community.

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