The library’s public forum is back – after a nine-month break

The library public forums at Tate South Lambeth Library are an opportunity for the general public  to hear from management what’s happening at the library and what’s planned. And to present  suggestions, complaints – or even praise.

The forums have in the past taken place at three-monthly intervals. But none has been held since February this year.  The gap is down to a combination of events – the “purdah” on policy statements in the run-up to the Council elections in May, the departure of the library manager in July, and the delay in appointing a new manager.

Although the latter problem is not yet sorted out, the public forum at TSL is due to  resume in November, with Susanna Barnes, the head of the library service, and Colette Townend, the TSL librarian.

The place is Tate South Lambeth Library.

The date is Saturday November 17th .

The time is 2-4pm.

The invitation is to everyone.


Seeing Better Now: the personal story behind a book of poetry

Wednesday November 7th,  7pm (doors open at 6.30pm)

Michael Roc Thomas, the son of Anthony Steel and Patricia Roc, two of Britain’s biggest film stars of the 1940s and 1950s, tells the story of how the birth of a child with a severe visual  impairment changed his life.

A former fashion photographer based in Cape Town, London and Madrid, he had moved to an idyllic location in Sri Lanka in 2000. He was present during  a turbulent period, with the south Asian tsunami of 2004 and the ongoing civil war. It was in  Sri Lanka that his daughter Steele was born in 2006, extremely premature and suffering from retinopathy of prematurity, a condition which usually results in total blindness (think of Stevie Wonder).

The concern that Steele might never see led Michael to start writing silly songs and nursery rhymes to entertain and stimulate his daughter. Over the years Michael’s writing skills progressed, culminating in  Seeing Better Now, a collection of 56 illustrated tales told in verse.

Michael will recount his story, read from his poetry and answer questions.

Copies of the book will be available at the talk. The proceeds are going to a Sri Lankan charity NEST that cares for children with severe disabilities across the island, where public funding is minimal or non-existent.

Entry free. Refreshments available.











Shared Spaces

Tuesday October 23rd 7pm

Nine  poets – Tamar Yoseloff, John Canfield, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Shazea Quraishi, Sophie Herxheimer, Rishi Dastidar, Rick Dove, Anne E Cooper and Molly Rowan  -discuss and read their poems on an issue that has a wide resonance,  exploring how a community shapes and is shaped by those who share its public spaces.

The theme is inspired by the library and by the growing concern from Lambeth’s residents about how the spaces we share are being closed off, privatised and neglected. Each poet has a strong Lambeth connection, and the readings will highlight that the work created here is a product of our community and therefore our shared spaces, and  celebrate the deep well of Lambeth talent.

Entry free. Refreshments available.




Saturday October 6th – it’s Fun Palace time at Tate South Lambeth

Come along to this annual celebration of fun – for all ages – between 10am and 4pm. Here’s the programme:

10.30am         Cardboard architecture – build a cardboard Tate South Lambeth Library

1.30pm           Gardening – pot your own spider plant to take home

2pm                Making slime –  to take home

2pm                Foot massage – taster session

2.30-4pm       Science club – homework help for 7-14 year olds. On every week at the library but pop in for a taster.

3pm                Food and drink

Throughout the day             knitting, a library quiz, card-making, chess, piano lessons and book sale

And the library’s till busy setting up more….

Lambeth Heritage Festival: The Murder of Mary Ashford

The murder of Mary Ashford - book by Naomi Clifford

London audiences venturing across Waterloo Bridge in May 1818 to the brand new Royal Coburg Theatre (later the Old Vic) were thrilled by a melodrama based on a shocking murder prosecution that had recently failed in the Court of King’s Bench. Naomi Clifford, whose latest book is The Murder of Mary Ashford, talks about a case that gripped and appalled the country and led to a change in English murder law.

Admission free. Refreshments are available.

This talk is part of the Lambeth Heritage Festival. Please note that this replaces the originally scheduled talk on Samuel Johnson and the darker side of 18th century Lambeth.

Our survey shows why the library is a treasure

In early July the committee of Friends of Tate South Lambeth Library organised a week-long survey of the use of our library.


We wanted to get a picture of how a fully-staffed small local library operates – how many people use it, what they do and what role the staff play – and how this contrasts with the largely unstaffed “neighbourhood” libraries that have replaced the former  staffed libraries at Carnegie, Minet and Waterloo.

How did we go about it?

Ten volunteer monitors sat at the library entrance on the five days July 9th and July 11th-14th, counting the number of people, who came in, by gender and age group – sometimes guess work (we didn’t question people) and sometimes incomplete when there was  a rush of entrants. We did not conduct the survey on Tuesday July 10th since – while the library hosts two major activities (the support session for the visually impaired and the English class for foreign language speakers) each Tuesday – it is not open to the general public.

The monitors then observed what the users did – borrowing or returning books, reading books or newspapers, using the library’s computers or their own laptops and devices, sitting around and chatting, taking part in a library activity, seeking help from staff.

What were our main findings?

Numbers. We recorded 937 people using the library, almost equally divided between male and female, with females a little ahead.

Breakdown by age. About one tenth each were pre-school and school-age , three tenths were young adults (18-30 years), just over  a third were adult ( 31-60 years) and one seventh were seniors. (This survey was within the school term, so the numbers of school age children were lower than in holiday periods.)

What library users did. All types of activity were registered. Particularly strong numbers were use of library computers and borrowing/returning books (one fifth each), seeking help from library staff (one sixth of the total) and taking part in a library activity (just over one tenth)

So what did our survey show?

The dependence on library staff –  by number and by nature.

We recorded 153 cases of people seeking help (and always receiving it).

The type of help provided  was very diverse – answering membership enquiries, setting up or renewing library membership, helping with printing and photocopying, giving help and guidance on the use of the library’s computers, sorting out a cabling problem on the library’s computers, helping on the book issue machine, searching for books on the library system, providing information on library services and activities, registering children for the Summer Reading Challenge and helping them select books.

Our monitors commented on the unfailing patience and friendliness of library staff in dealing with users. Particular sensitivity was displayed in talking to a recently bereaved elder and in conversing with a man with a speech defect.. A young woman was allowed access to the desk computer to resolve a problem. Understanding and calm was displayed in dealing with a man furious at his computer

All this help, unfailingly offered, is critical to the warm, and relaxed atmosphere of our library. Many satff members and users were already well known to each other.

So we need our staff – all the time – if this library is to remain a place where all community members feel  welcome and sympathetically treated..