To the Barrett Brownings! The Lewisham Library Read-In

Barbarella: That?! But nobody's done that for centuries! I mean, nobody except the very poor, who can't afford the pills and the psychocardiogram readings.
Mark Hand: Why not?
Barbarella: 'Cause it was proved to be distracting and a danger to maximum efficiency! And… and because it was pointless to continue it when other substitutes for ego support and self-esteem were made available...
Mark Hand: And now, Barbarella… don't you agree with me? That in some things, the old-fashioned ways are best after all?
Barbarella: What? Oh, that. Yes, I must admit it was rather… interesting. Still, I see what they mean by saying it's distracting.

Read-ins are planned across Lewisham libraries on February 5th as part of a national day of protest against threatened library closures.

The demonstrations will occur between 11.30am and 1pm at libraries including, Sydenham, Crofton Park, New Cross, Blackheath and Grove Park. Lewisham is trying to identify suitable not-for-profit partners to take them off the Council's hands.

See the Save Crofton Park Library group for details.

43 comments:

Oaksys said...

If Lewisham Council had been more careful with spending and not accrued a £500,000,000 debt there would be plenty of money for Libraries. What have Lewisham done with all the extra money from their above inflation council tax increases over the past few years? Perhaps the people protesting are aiming at the wrong target? The library closure programme is a rather cynical way of emphasizing the "cuts" while only making limited savings in the process.

Ray Bradbury said...

Monday burn Millay, Wednesday Whitman, Friday Faulkner, burn 'em to ashes, then burn the ashes. That's our official slogan

Anonymous said...

500 milion quid? what, down the back the back of the sofa?

Anonymous said...

...and I'm sure the spin meisters at No 10 are dead pleased that some are blamming the local authorities for the austerity measures initiated by Central Government.

Anonymous said...

Hello, good evening and welcome
to nothing much
A no holds barred half-nelson
and the loving touch
The comfort and the joy
of feeling lost
With the only library left in New Cross

Brockley Sarah said...

WOW anon 11:09 - can you come and read at the Crofton Park 'read-in'?!

welcome to 2011 said...

Link for that claim please Oaksys!

wendy said...

Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Barbarella in the same article!?

Anonymous said...

When are people going to accept the Mayor announced £60m of cuts months BEFORE the General Election based on the then Governments proposals.

Despite the read in is the wring on the wall?

Costa coffe has sponsored a book prize...turn Crofton Park into a coffee shop + library?

Anonymous said...

I thought the council had been making cuts/effiencies over the years by NOT increasing Council Tax.

Lou Baker said...

It's the most bizarre protest ever.

Demonstrators go to a library, sit quietly with a book for an hour and a half and then leave.

I can see ministers and councillors quaking in their boots - as dozens of mild mannered, middle class, sandal wearing hippies, with glasses and beards, prepare to quote Jane Austen at them.

PS: and, no, Lewisham doesn't need 11 libraries.

D said...

I kind of agree with Lou (help me!) - it sounds like they're arranging a protest which consists of exactly the action that people clearly aren't doing in everyday life.

Libraries are closing because people aren't sitting in them and reading any more. The only protest that will work is for them to do exactly that (all the time, not just as a short-term protest) and prove to the councils that they do get used.

I'd love them to be saved but to be honest I don't use them myself as I have no reason to at this point in my life. However, I remember countless hours spent in libraries as a child that helped me become who I am today, so I'd like to think that they will still exist for my children.

Anonymous said...

So you'd like to see some library provision in the future for others even though you don't use them. Presumably you don't see users or those protesting as freaks, as lou does. Would a noisy/disruptive protest be preferable to Lou I wonder?

Lou has zero sense of social responsibility, I think he's made that clear.

anon bob said...

The following link is a really great speech by Philip Pullman on library closures in Oxfordshire.

http://falseeconomy.org.uk/blog/save-oxfordshire-libraries-speech-philip-pullman

max said...

To undeline the dispensability of libraries in the modern landscape Lou will perform a read-in of selected passages from the Argos catalogue.

I think I'll join the libraries read-ins instead.

Lou Baker said...

@anon

I have plenty of social responsibility thanks.

But you clearly don't.

The country lives beyond its means and has to save money. I'd rather that money wasn't taken from pensioners needing care or poor kids.

You'd rather middle class library users had 11 libraries to choose from in Lewisham rather than 5. Chuck in the free fireworks, People's Day and Lewisham Life and I'm sure the council will do everything you require of it.

I'd prefer it spent money on essential services and people who really need it instead.

But, hey, if a pensioner starves I guess you don't care providing you can walk to your local library in 10 rather than 20 minutes. Which you won't of course, but I'm
sure you feel better knowing you can. Sicko.

Anonymous said...

Lou, I really doubt you give a damn about pensioners. I'm sure you would argue that they should have saved more when they were younger. After all why should your taxes pay for their fecklessness etc.....

max said...

That's a pretty good point against Lou's argument.

And I'd also suggest that many pensioners are also library users and closure of their local libraries would take away one important joy out of their lives.

The argument that it's a middle-class privilege is completely bogus.

If anything it's a middle-class conquest for the benefit of everyone regardless of income and social belonging.

Lou Baker said...

@max

Libraries are overwhelmingly the preserve of the middle classes. They are not rammed full of poor families with poor literacy skills.

But you'll note, I've not said all libraries should close. I'm addressing the issue of waste and over provision. A small borough like Lewisham does not need 11 libraries. 2 or 3 really good libraries are a much better resource for the community than 11 fairly poor ones.

And, yes, I do believe we should all be prudent and save for old age. The difference is that when today's pensioners were young they were told the state would provide. We should not break that promise. Those of us who are still some way from retirement should not expect the same. However, should we - or anyone - fall upon really hard times we should expect the state to help.

That's the difference between you and me. You think the state should help everyone - thus limiting the help it can give an individual. I believe the state should only help those in need for as long as they need help - but that it should provide proper help and not the derisory sums offered now. But I also believe everyone should play their part and do their share. That should be expected of virtually everyone - even if the part they play is small.

Anonymous said...

It's unfortunate but I have never seen crofton park library busy, despite it being tiny. I prefer to go further out to lewisham centre or Deptford as they are better resourced and staffed. Have experienced surreal 'Acorn antiques' type service at Crofton Park. Also what do they do with the upper floors?

Enormous Graham said...

Max, the reason why libraries are closing, in Lewisham and elsewhere, is because of the cuts. Councils have to make savings, and because the government have told councils to make most of them this year (so that they don't have to deal with their impact close to a general election) they do not have the time to see if they could do much in the way of making savings to keep them open. Whether Lewisham decided to make cuts before or after the government announced them is neither here nor there because everyone knew they were coming. It would have been remiss of the council not to plan for them.

And I really do think a period of humility on the part of people who encouraged us to vote Lib Dem, a party which has performed a massive volte face and raised two fingers to its electors, would be welcome.

We know who to blame, and it will be the same for the pot holes, the decaying parks, the unpainted schools and bigger class sizes and everything else we are going to get because the Liberals decided it was less important than their silly voting referendum.

Yes, I'm an angry ex-LD voter.

throses said...

My closest library is new cross but I tend to go to lewisham, deptford, dulwich or peckham as they are better stocked. I always find them busy and not necessarily with middle class people. When I moved to this country I had no money and spend fair amount of time in libraries. I still borrow books from them and feel they should be more of a community hub. I do agree though that I would prefer to have fewer but with more up to date and a wider range of reference and reading books. Lewisham libraries are poor.

max said...

Enormous Graham, I never ever, ever, ever, said anything about when was it that Lewisham Council planned the cuts, can you point at me ever saying that?
No you can't, because it's an irrelevant argument.
Irrelevant but nowhere as irritating as this one:

"And I really do think a period of humility on the part of people who encouraged us to vote Lib Dem, a party which has performed a massive volte face and raised two fingers to its electors, would be welcome. "

You're not going to get any period of humility for that reason out of me.

I really should not justify this, but at last elections I stood for the Lib Dems mainly because if you want to change things in Lewisham you stand for the party that has the best chances of becoming the next majority and the Lib Dems were in a good position to become the first party back then.
They were also a party with a program I could broadly agree with so no major ideological reason not to support that.

Also, at local level the Lib Dems were for a change to the Mayoral system as it is now, and that's something I agree very much with since a lot of important discussions about local public policies now happen under wrap and too many decisions are taken by one person only and I don't think that that's conducive to a transparent and best performing administration.

It is unfortunate that local and general elections were bundled together and the result was what it was but if you think about it for a second you may understand that when you start the ball rolling to run for Council you are in no position to know any of that.

So no, I will not apologize with you or anyone else for trying to be of service.

I entirely agree that this Government's front-loaded cuts are a sure way to make a lot of damage since they don't allow any time to restructure services (again you'd be hard pressed to find me ever saying anything different).

I am just as sad as you are about what the Lib Dems are NOT doing to prevent this massive damage to local services.
I would feel relief if the higher echelons of the Lib Dems would take a stand against this, in fact if this doesn't happen soon I don't think I will be able to support them again.

But I am also equally unimpressed by Labour, it is true that they are capitalizing on the cuts rather than really trying to prevent the worst damage. Ed Milliband zen-like attitude is all geared towards increasing votes, not protecting assets, services and jobs.

And finally, I partially agree with Lou that services must be rationally distributed and funded, but there is a lot of value in these services and community assets, they do add a lot of value to local communities, especially the small ones, often placed in god-forsaken suburban nightmares where there is nothing to do apart from staring at lamp posts and if some part of this asset must be sacrificed for the sake of a better sevice then it must be done very carefully, and all possible solutions to keep on providing as much service as possible and retain as many local community hubs must be explored.
It could even mean actually expanding in some areas of services, if professional training for example was provided at libraries it could help cut costs.
Only that with the timetable dictated by the Government it's very difficult to do so, and that's why I have not been critical of the Council on this so far, at this stage I rather they feel encouraged to work towards the best outcome.

Anonymous said...

"I believe the state should only help those in need for as long as they need help - but that it should provide proper help and not the derisory sums offered now. But I also believe everyone should play their part and do their share. That should be expected of virtually everyone - even if the part they play is small."

A very uncontroversial statement. All that is being disputed is who needs the money and the level of benefit. The trouble is Lou, your posts are not usually so reasonable. They usually scream at the thick and lazy individuals who won't make the effort or the idiots who administer the system. Schools fail because they are run by sandle wearing vegitarians etc, etc.... Now as most of your posts are Dailey Express, Sarah Palin type rants we could be forgiven for thinking that your a bombastic fool who sees the worlds social problems in terms of simple black and white certanties rather than shades of grey.

Irritated of Ladywell said...

"It was unfortunate that the local and national elections were bundled together and the result was what it was".

What you mean by this is that you are sorry that turnout was higher and this meant that more Labour voters turned out to vote. This Liberal argument that it was somehow a freak result is profoundly insulting and patronising to the people of Lewisham.

They came out, voted and and voted in the way they saw fit.

Deal with it and stop describing it as some sort of aberration. You might not like the result, but respect it, please.

Brockley Nick said...

The Ladywell by-election proved that the Council elections results weren't an accident.

Bookworm said...

"Libraries are overwhelmingly the preserve of the middle classes. They are not rammed full of poor families with poor literacy skills...A small borough like Lewisham does not need 11 libraries. 2 or 3 really good libraries are a much better resource for the community than 11 fairly poor ones."

Even if we accept the premise that libraries are mostly used by the middle classes (for which I have yet to see any evidence), I do not see this as an argument for funding them as an irrational or undesirable use of resources.

I had a middle class childhood in the sense that my parents read a lot and had aspirations for me to go to university, etc - but when I was young, we by no means had the money that would have a allowed me to chose read the number of books that I did. Weekly trips to the library were a pleasure and a massive contribution to my enjoyment, education and development.

Why seek to take this from the middle classes? If reading and books in the house is one of the characteristics that define the 'middle class,' surely it is a desirable characteristic and one that we want to preserve, while encouraging a wider stratum of visitors to the libraries (IF this is necessary).

It is an odd argument that because libraries are used mainly by middle classes they should be scrapped. What would be the pay-off of this for less well-off middle class children? Less reading and access to fewer books. And surely the repost to the situation (IF it is the case) is to work to encourage more users to the libraries, rather than closing them. How does a lack of libraries encourage non-readers, and 'non-reading classes'?? A bizarre solution, and one that completely contradicts the overriding desire of all parties and governments to improve childhood literacy and learning.

Now I have my own child, and, like my own parents, will not, at least for some years, be able to afford the quantities of books that I hope he will read. I hope that he will have the pleasure of visiting his library and immersing himself in the pleasure of exploring the books. If this library is not within walking distance, it will be much more difficult for us to visit regularly. That's one reason why a few widely-spaced "better" libraries are not a good option.

I hope that he doesn't grow up in a library-less world, in which children cannot borrow books, and depend on their parents' spending power and motivation for their reading input. What kind of society would that be?

Anonymous said...

It doesn't seem possible to access details of the read-in through that link if you are not a Facebook member. Please could someone post them here? Thanks.

Brockley Nick said...

Basically, the details are as per the article. Turn up at the stated time and date. Read a book.

Surprisingly smelly said...

If you look at the Taking Part Survey which is done by DCMS you'll see that library users are not actually primarily middle class. This is the most robust available research so please can posters avoid posting strident statements which demonstrate only that they haven't got the faintest idea what they are preaching about.

Surprisingly smelly said...

If you look at the Taking Part Survey which is done by DCMS you'll see that library users are not actually primarily middle class. This is the most robust available research so please can posters avoid posting strident statements which demonstrate only that they haven't got the faintest idea what they are preaching about.

Paolo said...

I suppose that lewisham still hasn't published details of its spending?

For all the blame placed on the government by commenters on this thread, these decisions are being taken at a local level. So the question is, what does lewisham spend money on that might be better used to fund libraries? Until these details are published, we have little idea.

I thinK Oaksys has it right at the start of this thread - "The library closure programme is a rather cynical way of emphasizing the "cuts" while only making limited savings in the process"

Anonymous said...

council spending
http://www.lewisham.gov.uk/CouncilAndDemocracy/Finances/CouncilSpending.htm

Brockley Nick said...

@Paulo I think it's rather glib to say that the Council's not trying to make efficiency savings.

Most of the actual cuts announced thus far have been efficiency savings, rather than front-line services. Click on the Lewisham Council button and look back at the articles from last year to see the kinds of cuts they have announced.

Bookworm said...

Thanks - so had a quick look at the 2009-10 data (http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/research/TP_Y5FiguresLibraries.xls), and most of those surveyed who said they had visited a public library in the past year reported NOT working, most were renting rather than owning their home, and a large proportion reported having a 'Long-standing illness or disability.' Not exactly an indication of a privileged salubrious bunch... which renders the very premise of the 'shut the libraries because they are the preserve of the middle classes argument' fallacious...

patrick1971 said...

I think it's an excellent point: so what if library users are all middle class? The middle classes pay taxes and are citizens too.

If the govt put a tax on middle class self-flagellation the national debt would be paid within days.

max said...

Irritating of Ladywell, you've completely misread my statement.
When I said:

"It was unfortunate that the local and national elections were bundled together and the result was what it was"

I wasn't at all meaning that I mourned the high turnout. In fact I have never done so, can you please point at me anywhere saying that?

What I meant is that the result that came out gave us a Westminster Government with Tory - Lib Dem coalition and a local Council with Labour majority and Lib Dem opposition, which means that our Council's opposition is in a politically awkward situation to make effective opposition, an essential feature of any performing democratic process. This Council's majority can now put forward proposals on cuts that may not be appropriate and there won't be anyone at Council capable to put up a fight because they'll be always told back that it's their party that instigated them.
That's bad for us residents of the London Borough of Lewisham, that's what I meant.

But, if you want to know what I think on an electoral level of the coincidence of local and General elections is that they are bad.
Arguments get mangled and the Westminster slickery descends on everything.
It means that on the doorstep you have to explain to people that yes, there is also a local election and when you try to explain them about the finest points of Council's performance in most cases you are just wasting your time because they are overwhelmed by messaging about the general elections.

Yes, these local election were a casualty of the general elections.

And by the way, I don't believe at all that the Ladywell by-election proves that Labour won it for a completely different set of reason that the coincidence of this year's local and general elections, it was fought on the back of that general election and Labour had a good and fresh set of canvas data to work on to bring people out to vote and a very large part of result was in my opinion becasue of the recent by-elections, and they didn't win it by a large margin either, the Greens with a lot less resources did very well indeed.

And to give further eveidence that it was still about the general elections only take a look at the Labour literature, it was in large part about sending a message to Government. That's one of the biggest motivational messages to bring people to vote, anger! Be angry, send a message!
People that voted Labour at the Ladywell by-election cared more about that than about Labour in power at Council.

Anonymous said...

I was in Lewisham library today and it was packed.
All the computers were being used, there were people downstairs in the cafe, parents upstairs with their children, and various people sat around reading and studying.

Tamsin said...

The extraordinary thing about the coinciding general and local elections was that Londoners in general and Lewisham in particular voted absolutely on party lines - why else would Conservative, Lib Dem, Green AND Socialist Party all get booted off the council at the same time. Speaking to Ian Page after the event (the long-serving Socialst Party councillor for the Telegraph Hill Ward) - he said he knew his candidature was doomed and he might get back a home life as soon as the General Election was called for the same date.

It arguably saves a lot of money on admin. but it disastrously confounds national and local politics and issues.

Lou Baker said...

@bookworm

An indication that many library users are older or on maternity leave is a better explanation.

Young illiterate teens do not and will not hang out in libraries.

The post about Lewisham library being packed is the really interesting one. I've never been to Lewisham library - but I assume it's the biggest and best in the borough? Certainly New Cross and Blackheath libraries are nearly always invariably empty when I pass. Demonstrating that a few really good libraries is a better (and cheaper) option than 11 mainly poor ones.

Despite the whines, Lewisham simply does not need 11 libraries. It just doesn't.

max said...

You're right Lou, Lewisham doesn't, but each one of the small neighbourhoods that enjoy these local facilites do.

It'd be great if they each saved some money by sharing the buildings with other initiatives but it's not always all about numbers of users.

Bookworm said...

"An indication that many library users are older or on maternity leave is a better explanation."

People on maternity leave would be unlikely to classify themselves as 'not working.' And if many users are older....? I don't see your point.

"Young illiterate teens do not and will not hang out in libraries."

I never said they did or will.

SamB_UK said...

I was in New Cross library this evening, and they told me the read-in is from 3pm (not 11:30 til 1 as previously stated). Not sure which is right/wrong, or if this is specific to New Cross.

Brockley Central Label Cloud

Click one of the labels below to see all posts on that subject. The bigger the label, the more posts there are!