A gym with a bookshelf – Lambeth’s plan for our library

On October 12th Lambeth Council is voting on a proposal that would convert three public libraries into gyms. Tate South Lambeth Library is on that transfer list.

The document that Lambeth Council is considering is a revised version of Cultural Services by 2020 – revised by Lambeth officers, supposedly in the light of a two-month long public consultation earlier this year.

In the case of libraries, the revisions bear little relation to the original, or to representations from the public. Yet people have now been given only 10 days to absorb and react to the new proposals before they come up for approval.

So what are the main revisions? Lambeth still proposes to offload four of its five “neighbourhood” (ie small) libraries. This time, instead of trying to close them down or transfer them to unidentified trusts that a totally unenthusiastic local community has to create, it is planning to close down just one (Waterloo) and transfer three libraries to Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), which will transform them into”healthy living centres”. The three libraries are Carnegie, Minet and either Durning or Tate South Lambeth.

So what’s a “healthy living centre”?

A gym.

But as Lambeth needs to maintain the appearance of providing a library service, a small area will be cordoned off where you can select from a very limited range of books, return books and use inevitably very restricted study space. (In the case of Tate South Lambeth the area allocated is likely to be a small fraction of the current space.) There will be no library staff present, and so no advice and no activities for the local community. This is NOT a library as library users understand it.

Friends of Tate South Lambeth Library, along with library supporters throughout the borough, are appalled at this proposal, which eviscerates Lambeth’s library service. It is particularly depressing that the document rejects a proposal from library managers for a charitable trust to run all the existing libraries – as libraries – on a reduced budget that would meet Lambeth’s spending targets. This is a model that has worked in other local authorities. So why not Lambeth?

As far as Tate South Lambeth Library is concerned, its inclusion in the transfer list is a U-turn from the earlier proposal under which TSL was designated the “town centre” library for the North of the borough, at least for an interim period while Lambeth considered the overall situation in an area of rapid population growth. Friends considered this designation justified by both the location of our library (close to five bus routes and near two,soon to be three, tube stations) and its performance as the library in the North of the borough with the most books borrowed’ the most and fastest growing membership registration, by far the highest number of visitors and a range of activities directed at children, young people, the old, the vulnerable and socially isolated, that compares well with the existing and much better endowed town centre libraries.

But these factors apparently don’t count.

TSL is on the transfer list because its building is considered more suitable than Durning’s for transformation into a gym. That says all we need to know about the priorities of the new proposal.

Tate South Lambeth was saved from closure in 2000, after massive local opposition. We can do it again.

So Friends of TSL suggest you:

  • Read the full report or get a paper copy at the library
  • Tell everyone you know!
  • Contact your local councillors (find your local councillors here)
  • Contact Jane Edbrooke, the cabinet member responsible (jedbrooke@lambeth.gov.uk)
  • Tweet Jane (@JaneEdbrooke) using #SaveLibraries
  • Sign the petition at the library and/or at https://www.change.org/p/london-borough-of-lambeth-save-lambeth-libraries
  • Lobby the cabinet meeting – 6.30pm, Monday October 12, at Dunraven  School, 94-98 Leigham Court Road, SW16 2QB ( shifted as of October 6 from the much more central and convenient Karibu Centre, 7 Gresham Rd, SW9 7PH because of the prospect of a large public presence)
  • Come along to the public library forum at TSL on Saturday 17 October at 2-4pm

3 Replies to “A gym with a bookshelf – Lambeth’s plan for our library”

  1. It seems that year on year on year, there is constantly a threat made to this library.

    This is a significant loss to the area of South Lambeth Road if we cannot keep the Library!!! Whenever I go it is heavily used.
    Once upon a time, private gym membership was expensive and council run gyms often offered good value for money.

    However today, looking at the location of South Lambeth Library, within five minutes walk we have

    The Gym Vauxhall – £19.99/month, 24hours, no contract (situated in St Georges)
    The Gym Clapham Road – 19.99/month, 24hours, no contract (situated in the Print Works on Clapham Road)
    Pure Gym Lambeth- 19.99/month, 24hours, (currently discounted to £15.99) no contract (situated below the Loft theatre in Wandsworth Road )
    South Bank Club – from £29.99/month (situated in Wandsworth Road)

    Map:

    Compare this to the council:

    Clapham Leisure Centre – £55/month 12 month contract
    (though it has a pool too)

    With such an abundance of low cost gyms it begs the question on how the economics of the library gym can be justified .

    Unless it is a very low price, clearly it will find it hard to compete.

    All of the gyms are significantly larger than South Lambeth Library and hence will be guaranteed to have better facilities – and be less crowded

    Part of the councils argument for these centres is to help getting people fitter. But if someone is not willing to pay £20/month, then what price will they pay?

    To run a small gym would need staff, equipment to be bought and maintained, showers, changing rooms etc etc. Clearly it would be difficult for the council to charge a lot less than these gyms and with limited space.

  2. I am disgusted to read that there is a proposed closure to the library. I grew up in Tyers Street, the daughter of two hard working parents. I spent many hours at the library and with our parents’ encouragement, two out of three daughters passed the 11+ and gained places at a Notre Dame High School. The library was a constant source of information for us and I am sure will be to many more children in the area. Not every child has access to computers and my love of learning owes a lot to visiting the library. My parents had aspirations for us, even though they were on a limited income and my sisters and I had a good education and were able to live a life our parents could only dream of. To close this library would be a crime to any children who live in the borough.

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