Friends of Tate South Lambeth Library, together with all the other library friends groups in Lambeth, has signed an open letter to Council Leader Lib Peck, iappealing to her to abandon the plan, set out in Culture 2020, to halve the number of public libraries in Lambeth from ten to five, and go with the alternative proposal put forward by Susanna Barnes.
Friends of Lambeth Libraries – from Waterloo to Upper Norwood – want to thank you for your decision to consider the alternative proposal for Lambeth’s libraries, by Susanna Barnes, head of service.
This would maintain all 10 libraries, but still deliver the savings which we entirely understand the Council is forced to find.
We fully appreciate that the government has inflicted deep cuts on Lambeth. But we also know that the council believes in finding pioneering solutions to deliver improved services to residents. Here is another chance to do just that.
The current Culture2020 proposals, while perhaps well intentioned, would reduce five of our 10 libraries to a fraction of their current size – and leave them unstaffed. Millions would be wasted on installing unwanted gyms in three of them, and on administering a clumsy, fragmented ‘system’.
These proposals would hurt the most vulnerable in our borough, and do not deliver the savings needed.
They are deeply unpopular. Residents have demonstrated this in their hundreds, again and again. Over 10,000 have signed petitions.
But we are wholeheartedly in favour of Susanna Barnes’ proposal – which preserves a full library service for all who need it, provides more certainty of savings and offers many additional benefits.
Lib, you can turn bitter opposition into enthusiastic support. What’s more, this support will build into extra funding, more activities, new ideas – and kudos for Lambeth.
That will not happen if the Council tries to foist an illogical and hated plan on to reluctant residents who value the libraries as they are now.
So – what does Susanna Barnes propose? The core idea is a staff and community mutual trust. It opens up savings, and ways to bring in funding, that are not open to the Council. Above all, it is a unique opportunity to pool the expertise of Council staff and the skills of Lambeth residents.
By creating this formidable alliance, the Council can access outside commercial acumen and professional skills to deliver additional income, reduce costs, develop staff and use properties more efficiently.
This, we believe, represents Lambeth’s finest aspirations for social inclusion – and being a Co-operative Council.
If you endorse this alternative approach, you will regain the huge measure of goodwill you have lost with the Culture2020 plans.
And you will be able to rely on a very active network that would deliver added value – something the Council has so far not explored.
Can Susanna Barnes – and the community – deliver?
Well, she and her staff have already made remarkable improvements in the past two years. Lambeth – on one of the lowest budgets in Britain – is TOP for its percentage increase in loans, and one of only two services in the whole country to improve on all three national measures: loans, visits and active borrowers.
A host of new – free – activities and advice sessions keep the buildings buzzing all day. And Lambeth’s libraries are also now the national leader in enabling people with sight problems to read and use the internet.
None of this can survive if the service is cut in half.
Those who would suffer include children, old and disabled people, BME communities, those on low incomes, those without internet access and many people who need help with everyday problems. Next to suffer would be the Council, as its hard-pressed services try somehow to compensate for the damage.
Our libraries now are jewels in the borough’s crown. We need to build on them to deliver maximum social returns. To reverse all this progress is a shocking waste of the Council’s recent hard work and capital investment.
Imagine what accolades Lambeth Council could garner if, instead of slashing its library network in half, it maintained and improved it – with the full support of residents.
Imagine if this could be achieved in a way which generated more than the required savings, drove innovation and staff productivity and increased the feeling of ownership by Lambeth residents in the provision of their service.
We don’t have to imagine.
Let’s call off the fight, get round the table together and make sure that Susanna Barnes’ proposals for our 10 libraries become reality.
Laura Swaffield, chair of Friends of Lambeth Libraries
Priscilla Baines for Friends of the Durning Library
Michael Ball for Friends of Waterloo Library
Jeff Doorn for Friends of Carnegie Library
Robert Gibson for Upper Norwood Library Campaign
Edith Holtham for Friends of Tate South Lambeth Library
Simon Hooberman for Friends of Streatham Vale
Marjorie Landels for Friends of Minet Library
Michaela Loebner for Friends of West Norwood Library
Marilyn Rogers for Friends of Brixton Library.