Lewisham decides to hand over libraries

In today's Lewisham Council budget meeting, the Mayor accepted officers' recommendation that five libraries in the borough be closed unless a third party can be found to take over their running.


Crofton Park library is among those targeted for closure.

Snipe reports:

Blackheath Village Library, Sydenham Library, Crofton Park Library, New Cross Library and Grove Park Library will all close their doors from the 28th May this year.

The plan met with fierce opposition from local residents, who recently held a read-in protest across the borough.

Libraries fulfill an important role as a community meeting space and provide vital access to books and the internet to those on low incomes and Crofton Park Library is a handsome building, much loved by those who use it and forms an important part of a successful high street. The public sector should invest to equip people with knowledge and opportunity - space to work, read or think is a precious public resource.

However, it is also the case that Crofton Park Library is under-used, under-resourced and has a top floor that is unoccupied. It is surely true that it could be better - and that there is no reason why a social enterprise shouldn't be allowed to try to do a better job.

Some organisations have expressed an interest in taking over its running. If a group can deliver its core remit while using the space more imaginatively and developing new revenue streams, then this could be good news. But that is a very big 'if'.

If not, then we have lost something very special.

76 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh well I guess we put a Tesco in there and get them to pay for a new library nearby.

bibliophile said...

Sigh. It's sad to see it threatened with closure, but though I love the idea of Crofton Park having a library (and it's a beautiful building) I have been in there precisely once in 10 years and am unlikely ever to need to use it again.

PS why the hyphen in the thread title? Doesn't that indicate a noun rather than a verb? I feel obliged to raise this given that the topic of the thread is closely linked to literacy... :-)

Brockley Nick said...

@Bibliophile - I knew I should have gone with a less high-risk title!

G said...

Isn't there a Barclays Bank almost right next door to the Blackheath library? Seems to me it's ripe for a UK Uncut-style sit-in.

Tamsin said...

In purist proof reading mode. "hand over" as two words is the verb. "Handover" is even more nominal than "hand-over".

Agree it's a crying shame - but hopefully there is enough anger and expertise and people with connections in the campaign groups to come up with viable alternatives.

abw said...

is there any info on WHICH orgs have expressed interest?

Brockley Nick said...

@Tamsin

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/handover

Brockley Nick said...

@Abw

http://brockleycentral.blogspot.com/2010/10/crofton-park-library-latest.html

Anonymous said...

Has anyone else noticed that Tamsin either gets quite a lot wrong on here, or has to do a last minute back peddle on her opinions?

Brockley Ben said...

@Nick I think your link supports Tamsin. One word = noun. Two word = verb (about a third of the way down this page)

Brockley Nick said...

Ah bugger! You do realise I am trying to write this while I am actually supposed to be in a meeting?! Cut me some slack!

Brockley Ben said...

Duly cut!

Q said...

I think Nick should hand the problem over in a completely different way 'all together'. Unless all of you are not altogther on that.

Anonymous said...

Full Disclosure: Nick works as a Project Manager for Conways

Brockley Nick said...

"Project-Manager"

Brockley Nick said...

...I do rely on the community to correct my mistakes, it's true.

Anonymous said...

Once there closed there will be no turning back.Developers are gathering as I speak.

mg said...

I've seen mentioned a few times now that the libraries are under-used. I use Crofton Park weekly, both on weekends and weekdays and there are always plenty of people in there - the chairs/tables/computers all occupied, teens doing homework in their area, families in the kids' room. How is 'under-used' defined and by whom?
A lost cause now I suppose but I'm gutted.

evil developer said...

It is they're...Once they're closed.

Brockley Nick said...

@Mg - in my experience, the library is usually fairly empty.

Most recently, I went with my daughter to Jam Circus, during the week, when it was packed with mums and kids, many of them reading books together. We then walked a few doors down to Crofton Park Library. There were only three other members of the public there. The children's section was empty apart from us. That suggests to me that something could be done to make Crofton Park more successful.

Anonymous said...

Libraries should start selling drinks!

... said...

Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.

Kenny Chesney Tickets

drakefell debaser said...

Ha! I just had to Google a name like Kenny Chesney.

BC can now add a country singer that likes tank tops as a fan.

Crofty said...

I earwigged on interesting conversation in Budgens the other night, with one guy who seems to be involved in the whole process talking about what was going on to a worried Jay the shop owner. He was saying that quite a few community groups have come forward hoping to see if they can do something in the Crofton Park library, to give it a chance of survival. But they are being told that if they do so they'll be responsible for fixing a leak in the roof _ and being told what this guy thought were very exaggerated ideas of how expensive that would be, and how problematic. In his view to discourage these groups from going further with it. Glad I'm moving out of the borough to be honest.

Tyrwhitt Michael said...

I fancy Kenny's Des Moines Concert.
Have to save up for the air fare........or is it fair?

Tamsin said...

Thanks, Ben.

And I bite my thumb at the Anonymous - who hasn't the grace to give a name. At least I identify myself in giving opinions and am open minded enough to back down when proved wrong.

I would also cut Nick all the slack he needs for the great job he does (my pedantry was not intended nastily, just slightly amusing that the correction made matters worse). And impressed by his updating this while engaged in other work - I can't simultaneously multi-task to that extent. Hence huge gaps between posts.

But this is all diversion from serious issues. Worrying that the potential social enterprise users are being so actively discouraged. I would have thought that the best solution for everyone would have been for the Council to issue a full-repairing lease with peppercorn rent and break-clauses to any body (and I do meant that to be two words) willing to be part of the Big Society, give it a go and take on use of such a building. If the enterprise fails the lease can be forfeit and the Council can then sell off for short term capital gain. But if things go well the service users are happy and the Council keep the freehold and the potential to take over control and use of the buildings when better times come and if the social enterprise runs out of steam ten or twenty years down the line.

Anonymous said...

How incredibly depressing that the council don't believe we need our library, how do you explain to children the library no longer exists, how do you encourage reading, writing, the loss to our local community is enormous. What a sad thing to happen in our generation.

Anonymous said...

There is no way on Earth that they have exhausted all options.

This is disgusting!

I don't like the whole Big Society BS but for God's sake run them voluntarily rather than shut them down!

savecroftonparklibrary said...

@ nick your use of the word ' underused' is anecdotal and inaccurate. I am struggling to understand how you just can print this without qualification.

It is a KEY point in the argument against closing it. I have used the library for 40 + years and my children use the library weekly (usually sat morns) and its really busy then. I would also strongly suggest that the Jam circus reading circle complete with cost of a round of drinks(soft or otherwise) and the Library kids I know are a VERY different. Many still cannot afford to buy lots of books.

This is a huge loss for the area and I have to object to the keen embrace of the commercial argument in ur blog

mg said...

Well my post was anecdotal as well, but Saturday and Monday afternoons are, in my experience, always very busy. It doesn't appear to matter much either way.

Crofty said...

From what the guy I overheard talking at Budgens said, council desperate to sell the Crofton Park building and get the cash.

Tamsin said...

Well they shouldn't be.

Southwark's plans to sell the Livesey Museum came unstuck on the basis of the original bequest - for the public forever sort of thing. Given that this is an ex Carnegie Library (isn't it - or something equivalent?) mightn't the same apply.

Lou Baker said...

@savecroftonparklibrary

If you like it so much, you pay to save it.

The problem is that virtually everyone who bemoans the loss of these 'free public services' expects them to be paid for by someone else.

If all the library stalwarts offered an extra £500 a year on top of their council tax there might be enough money to pay for it. But that's not how it works with this mob. They prattle on about 'the rich' (never defined) and bemoan the loss of a service they use which is expensive and superfluous for the rest of us.

Lewisham is a small borough. It will still have six libraries - with more in neighbouring boroughs. Lewisham library is less than a mile from Crofton Park library. Having to walk a bit further is not the end of the world. Put it in perspective and get over it.

Anonymous said...

lighten up Louie.

Anonymous said...

I was ready to get upset about this until I realised there's one in lewisham. Not "problem solved" but perhaps "not as bad as is being made out"?

Karen Jonason said...

The term "closure" for the 5 libraries is a technical one, connected with employment law. There are community groups organising to bid for running them on a leasehold basis. Apart from work needing doing, such as installing self-issue machinery, I don't see any doors actually closing, and there is even the prospect of increased opening hours.

Anonymous said...

@Loser Baker I dont know what happened to you to make u so unhappy and bitter... but I hope it continues

Furious gerald said...

With big libraries in downham, lewisham, manor park, torridon road and a brand new one at deptford lounge through section 106 money we, as a borough, will hopefully end up with several large libraries and several small, community run libraries - that's not that bad really is it?

Anonymous said...

Lou Baker is spot on, again.

Anonymous said...

the quickest way to fail in any enterprise is to put inexperienced people in charge of running it. the chances of having the right sort of local expertise and it being free and available are minimal. Community run libraries are another tory lie.Just like the joke called -Big Society.

Anonymous said...

@ L Baker so access to books is only for those with a big enough pay packet? You surprise me?

Brockley Nick said...

@Savecroftonparklibrary

"It is a KEY point in the argument against closing it."

Yes, but denying the truth of it doesn't help. Better to mount stronger arguments in favour of the library than pretend everything's perfect, when it's clearly not.

"I have used the library for 40 + years and my children use the library weekly (usually sat morns) and its really busy then."

There are times when it is quite busy and times when it is quite empty. That makes it "underused", in my view - although the term is subjective, it is undeniable that it has spare capacityIts opening hours aren't great either. That's not a criticism of the community, its underuse is as much a symptom of lack of council investment as reader apathy.

"I would also strongly suggest that the Jam circus reading circle complete with cost of a round of drinks(soft or otherwise) and the Library kids I know are a VERY different."

Yes of course. I didn't say otherwise. But wh.y are all those mums flocking there and not to the library? My point is that understanding those reasons might point the way to creating a sustainable community library.

"Many still cannot afford to buy lots of books."

Sure - hence my argument that the public sector should invest to help people get access to these things.

"This is a huge loss for the area"

It is if the library closes yes - but not if it doesn't. That's what my article says.

"and I have to object to the keen embrace of the commercial argument in ur blog"

Why? Means don't matter, ends do. If a social enterprise can prosper, then great. As I say, that's the big "if".

Why would anyone but an ideologue object to a library being self-funding if it achieved the same ends?

thisisengland said...

The vulgarians have taken over. 'Money' and 'market forces' shouldn't be the issue here. Culture is all that matters. Our libraries were founded for the most part from gifts from rich Victorian philanthropists that were concerned about the poor and underprivileged. A Century later and along come the Philistines.

Anonymous said...

@tie, you're inadvertently arguing for the closure policy. No state funding, libraries should be left to hope for the charity of a rich doner?

Anonymous said...

And to thebperson who said that Lou was spot on again, can I refer you to his comments about how the ELL is useless. He's a bitter old windbag, absolute confidence in your opinion and simplistic assertions do not make him some kind o Renaissance man.

Anonymous said...

would turning part of the library into a cafe/restaurant work?

Lou Baker said...

@anon 0711
Windbag? Moi?

Actually I argued all along that the ELL was a moderate improvement at best and - guess what - it is. But don't let facts get in the way of your ignorance.

@anon 2319

No, books shouldn't only be for the rich. And they won't be. No one has said all libraries should close. And even if Lewisham closes 5 libraries it will still have 6 more - including Lewisham library, which is less than a mile from Crofton Park.

Or do you consider walking to be a rich persons activity too?

@nick

A self funding - or even better a profit making - replacement would be sensible solution. Adding a cafe, charging for classes etc could work and would seem like the way forward. If, of course, the loons can get over their loathing of everything not state run.

2 birds 1 stone said...

Simon and John could have there Destination Library/Cafe for the local literate cake munchers.

The rest of us can read our fine literature uninterrupted on our i-pads, out in the sun, wind and rain on Hilly Fields.

Problem solved :)

Vida a la literatura.

Anonymous said...

Every time I've been in there, it's been busy, and the computer area has been packed.
Does anyone actually know what the useage figures are, in terms of average users per hour or somesuch? And does anyone actually know what level of average users per hour they would personally consider to be 'well-used'?
I bet there are times when there are very few people in Jam Circus too. That doesn't make it 'under-used'. But fundamentally, without some objective measure of useage to consider, you're making an unfounded subjective judgement.
Anecdote is not the plural of data, Nick.

Anonymous said...

Oops, other way round: data is not the plural of anecdote. Oh well. Doh.

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon - yes, I already said it is my subjective judgement. It's based on several visits to the library at different times of the day, week and year, which is not a scientific study, but enough to conclude that there is spare capacity.

I agree that usage figures would be helpful - but there are times when it is empty and I am saying that that means there is room for improvement, not that it means that the library should be shut.

Anonymous said...

Lou, you're Orwellian rewriting of history is remarkable.

Anonymous said...

"Sigh. It's sad to see it threatened with closure, but though I love the idea of Crofton Park having a library (and it's a beautiful building) I have been in there precisely once in 10 years and am unlikely ever to need to use it again."

Oh, well, as long as you're okay, then.

Tamsin said...

No - it's misrepresentation by various anonymii and others which is remarkable. I take it you are referring to ELL comments. What Lou and I consistently said that an overall improvement for the South East infrastructure though it is, it would not be all-singing, all-dancing wonder that the hype would have us believe and, for those in reach of NXG station, was not a significant improvement at all. We could already get to Shoreditch and Whitechapel and the powers that be used the coming of the ELL as a distraction in arguments about other service cuts.

Back to topic, though. Love the phrase that "data is not the plural of anecdote" - but "case studies" (i.e. a fancy term for anecdote) are a valid part of any measure of need and outcome.

Sparrow said...

@2 birds 1 stone
I like your thinking!

Anonymous said...

I come on this site often but rarely post. It really saddens me that this thread has become a pedantic slanging match rather than people agreeing to get together for some form of protest to try and stop this from happening.

libraries are social hubs that tend to be used by people alot less fortunate than others. I see the same elderly people and learning disabled people using the libraries day in and day out. I use them for DVDs as I would rather they have my money than love film and they need my support.

Come on get together and stop this from happening!

Lewisham is labour and they are doing this in the face of a tory government as a political move - whilst neighbouring boroughs are keeping their public services open where-ever possible!

thisisengland said...

@anon 07.08. You completely miss my point. Too high-falutin' I expect.

Anonymous said...

The Torridon Road Library is being completely refurbished,new roof the works,looking forward to seeing it.

Bookworm said...

@Tamsin: "case studies" (i.e. a fancy term for anecdote) are a valid part of any measure of need and outcome.

No, they are not a valid part of ANY measure etc. They are a valid way of investigating some things. It depends what you are investigating. In this case, the question under investigation seems to be, "is Crofton Park library underused?" Having defined the terms (i.e. where is the line dividing over/under?), this requires a representative quantitative measure of use. Case studies, or anecdotes, being non-representative of the overall situation, are an inappropriate measure.

(If, for example, we wanted to start building a picture of WHY the level of usage, at different times of day, etc, case studies would be a good place to start, to hypothesis-build).

Anon@11:36 - despite entering into the petty fray myself, I do agree with you....

Brockley Nick said...

@bookworm

Yes, we can argue the toss about what "underused" means, but unless you're saying that the library is "overused" or "optimally used" then it is underused. We don't have stats for usage patterns, but I think it's pretty obvious that it is not being used in the best way, in this, the best of all possible worlds. I can understand people don't want to feel like they're letting the Council off the hook by admitting that it is not as well used as it could be, but it's better to have an honest debate.

Anyway, what practical suggestions are there for the library's future? Protest? Create a social enterprise? Create alternative resources? Let it be turned in to something else?

Tamsin said...

@anon 11.36 But once the protests are made and ignored harness some of that enthusiasm and get together a small group of dedicated people to create a social enterprise company, approach the Council with a business plan, ask them to contribute with a lease at a peppercorn rent (pointing out that this way they get good political cred. and preserve the family silver for another rainy day) and create community hubs to optimally use the buildings.

Try to create a set up that can financially support a paid manager - at least part-time. Think of the shop in Ambridge - volunteers backing up Susan who provides the stable core and is paid for her services.

Anonymous said...

Think it needs pointing out that Ambridge, like the Big Society... is a fiction. Hope that doesnt scare you.

Tamsin said...

Maybe, but I expect quite a lot of village shops are now operated like that - the writers have always tried to base their story-lines in reality.

If you want something definitely real and closer to home consider the Hill Station. It is just not such a close model to what would probably be ideal for the former libraries because volunteers are not involved in the day to day running of the business and the activity, as yet, is focussed on just being a cafe. In an ex-library there is the space - and the need - to be more diverse.

Tressilliana said...

"the writers have always tried to base their story-lines in reality"

Tamsin, I don't know if you're listening to The Archers at the moment - I am (addicted, unable to break it) and I think they've lost touch with reality! But that's not particularly relevant to BC so I'd better leave it there.

Anonymous said...

Up north they are proposing to reduce the number of councillors to save money.

Does each ward need 3 councillors?

Could save around £100,000 a year.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile...
The current Deputy Mayor (Alan Smith) writes to the press 'infuriated' at the Nationwide's decision to close 3 branches in the borough.

"Through this act, Nationwide has put local jobs at risk...that should embarrass an organisation that rose from the co-operative movement."

Alan, you sit beside a Mayor who campaigned on the promise of making £60m of cuts, what affect do you think that will have on jobs?

Cat got your tongue?

Anonymous said...

On home care for the elderly this has been on the cards to be reduced for some years.

In wealthier times a few years ago it was proposed to reduce service provision by re-categorise people.

Thus magically overnight people who were said to require visits would be 're-categorised' and provided with a leaflet.

Anonymous said...

I see the former Deputy Mayor Heide Alexander now an MP bangs on in a letter about government.

She blanks from her mind the fact at local level Lewisham has the highest youth unemployment in the country. Even when she had millions of taxpayers money she failed to improve young peoples prospects.

Despite the goverment funding a new secondary school she and her collegues locally failed to deliver the school.

Yet another week and yet another fatal stabbing in Lewisham, how at local level has she and her collegues created a situation where youths from this borough end up on trial at the Old Bailey for extremely violent crimes?

Oh and don't get me started on the millions wasted locally by local councillors on improving the centre of Lewisham.

Her Legacy to that has been a mound of rubble covered in grass.

Anonymous said...

How can our MPs take the moral high ground when in wealthier times Joan Ruddock voted for the closure of Post Offices.

I believe in Lewisham one party has been in power since 1971 and you'd think at local level thinks would been sorted by now, homelessness, housing, eduction etc.

The housing waiting list actually shot up during the last goverment's reign, b&b was reintroduced at local level.

How the heck at local level didn't the council know before May of last year they had a shortage of primary school places requiring urgent action before September.

Look at the graffiti plastered everywhere the Council spends close to £500,000 a year removing it, I don't see any reduction overall.

£12m was spent locally to improve the centre of Lewisham and create a new bus station. Now £16m is to be spent on Lewisham Gateway, including demolishing and moving the newly built bus station.

Anonymous said...

"And to thebperson [sic] who said that Lou was spot on again, can I refer you to his comments about how the ELL is useless."

I said he was right 'again', not 'always'.

Anonymous said...

Well everyone is right occasionally, even Jeremy clarkson. Still a throbing bell end.

Anonymous said...

Is Britain REALLY that poor that we can't afford to keep open libraries and pay librarians???

Anonymous said...

"Well everyone is right occasionally, even Jeremy clarkson [sic]. Still a throbing [sic] bell end."

Why not simply call HIM that rather than call ME out on agreeing with his opinion?

"Is Britain REALLY that poor that we can't afford to keep open libraries and pay librarians???"

We're certainly not rich enough to keep open services that few people use - particularly when nearby alternatives will remain open to service those few who do. It's very simple. If ALL of the local libraries were closing or if everyone complaining about the closures used the current ones, I'd understand the uproar.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 14:42
people do use libraries...

A report from The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) revealed that 310.8 million books were borrowed from libraries across the country in 2008/09.

so nobody uses libraries eh?

That was from this article here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/7715689/Children-behind-rise-in-borrowing-of-library-books.html

Anonymous said...

"so nobody uses libraries eh?"

Did I say that? Anyway, you can straw-man all you like - in the meantime people can keep using the remaining six libraries that will still be open in this borough. Tell me something, do you think these remaining six libraries will be overrun now five have been closed? . . .

stacy said...

This is my Good luck that I found your post which is according to my search and topic, I think you are a great blogger, thanks for helping me outta my problem..
Free Dissertation Topics List

Brockley Central Label Cloud