Crofton Park Library - And that's the end of that chapter

Anyway -- because we are readers, we don't have to wait for some communications executive to decide what we should think about next -- and how we should think about it. We can fill our heads with anything from aardvarks to zucchinis -- at any time of night or day. 
- Kurt Vonnegut

The Guardian covers library closures today and mentions Crofton Park as a possible model for other communities whose libraries are threatened with closure. It says:

Disheartened observers... could find fresh encouragement by turning their attention to Lewisham, where the council has withdrawn funding from five of its 12 libraries. But all are still running. Earlier this year, the management of three of these libraries was handed to Eco Computer Systems (ECS), a local social enterprise that recycles computers. The libraries were rechristened "community hubs".

Founder Darren Taylor describes them as the natural expansion to his business, which donates 30% of the computers it recycles to needy individuals and community groups and ploughs its profits into IT training and other social projects.

The three libraries, for which Taylor's organisation has been given leases of up to 25 years, are combining traditional book borrowing with a patchwork of income-generating activities including IT and employment training, cafes, secondhand book sales and the rental of community meeting space. They are overseen by community hub managers employed by his organisation, helped by a pool of 120 volunteers. In the first weeks of the transfer to ECS, library staff showed the new managers the ropes but none of the council's librarians work there now. Fifteen staff have lost their jobs as a result of the council's withdrawal of funding from the five libraries.

So this is a good time to ask the question - how successful do you think the transition from Council to social enterprise has been? Have you used Crofton Park Library since the handover - and how does it compare?

With thanks to Mike.

26 comments:

mg said...

This is very much my personal experience only, but for me it hasn't been successful. Lewisham has taken back an enormous amount of books and shelving, and there is very little left of interest to me to borrow or browse. I used the library weekly before the change and have used it only a handful of times since. It's become quite a depressing room. I think it retains its (enormous) value as a place for parents and children, teenagers to study, seniors to read the papers, jobseekers needing internet access etc and hope it manages to stay open for this and other useful community purposes. But for book-borrowing I'm afraid I've switched to the library near my workplace.

Sarah said...

It seems to be busy every time I go in there and I will continue to support it. Well done to the team that run it - and long may it continue.

Matt-Z said...

I gather that Lewisham aren't being as helpful as they might.

The community libraries aren't allowed to take any money on behalf of Lewisham so all fines etc have to be paid at a Lewisham-run library (fair enough, though you'd hope that could change in the future). A downside of this is that they can no longer sell Lewisham's popular green garden waste recycling bags to residents for £1 each.

A way around this was thought of: why not buy a quantity of bags from Lewisham and then resell them? No cost or risk to Lewisham, locals can get the bags again, and ECS recoup the money.

Not so simple, Lewisham refused to sell them the bags in bulk, or indeed at all. I asked a Lewisham librarian about this, whose reply went along the lines of 'well of course not, it could have been anyone buying the bags, and they could have sold them on at a profit or used them for something illegal.'

Anonymous said...

job losses, from professional to amateur staff - the Council, and the people running the libraries, may be acting illegally in relation to the data protection act as well

kolp said...

Is it still primarily a library as in loaning books? So many libraries aren't but thanks to Google's book digitisation project, and the universal library card you can still get free/cheap access to almost any book you can think of on or offline.

haven't a clue said...

'Google's book digitisation project, and the universal library card'

what are these?
I've never heard of either.

Anonymous said...

But google is running into legal difficulties in the States accused of breaching and infringing copyright, and watermarking as their copyright books that are in the public domain.

Brockley Nick said...

Sure, in some cases. Lots of things are off copyright and there are lots of different digitisation projects - eg: the British Library, lots of national museums, digitising books, paintings, antiquities, etc, etc.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the National Portrait Gallery now digitises so-called 'orphan works' then re-sells them for £80, saying the buyer is buying in a 'risk-reduced way'. Orphan works are something the last and present government seek to make available for digitisation, trouble is they also seek to relentlessly subvert the degree of due diligence need to verify the ownership of said works. That is not something to celebrate if you are a writer or designer or photographer.

mb said...

The british library is a goody, did a search for 'brockley' and found all sorts of goodies.

fabhat said...

I'm still using it, but certainly less than I was, although the volunteers are excellent and the baby bounce sessions are still continuing on friday mornings...but you can't renew books there unless you have them with you, as they cannot access the main library data - so like not being able to pay fines it is a rather annoying glitch that Lewisham have ignored. On a side note I also can't seem to renew books I borrow from Crofton Park online either - but that might just be me...

Anonymous said...

It's way too early to tell how successful this has been.

One downside Ive noticed is the New Cross Peoples Library has limited opening hours.

What are peoples experiences of the non-council libraries so far?

Matt-Z said...

Regarding the library database: apparently they can't access a live version of it, but get a copy once or twice a week, which is obviously out of date as soon as the next loan/return occurs. I heard they are working on getting a real time link, but again Lewisham are dragging their heels.

Brockley Nick said...

@Matt Z: Amazing.

re: New Cross People's Library, the official twitter feed claimed this week that:

"Thursday's number [of visitors, presumably] was 425! On Saturday the Knitting Circle has crept up to 12 with old and young working so well together."

Tamsin said...

The New Cross Library had limited hours before (cynics would say this is a way of driving down usage figures to justify closure) - at least it is now fairly consistent.

Anonymous said...

I was interested in the knitting
and it's on from 2-5 on saturdays. Looking at the website it only has an 8 week tenancy though.

Is that right?

Tamsin said...

I think it's an eight week initial licence to see how it goes - but it's got support of the local councillors and some funding from the Ward Assembly so hopefully they will be in there for the long haul. The more it's used, of course, the better the chances.

aunty kate said...

re: Lewisham council being sulky and not letting the users of their former libraries get the full services (garden waste bags, mattress stickers, book not present renewals..)

Can we have a council tax strike until they mend their ways? The residents didn't want the libraries to close either, so no reason to punish us with jobsworth non-co-operation with the new leaseholder.

Library user said...

Agree with other experiences above. There are far fewer books, although the children's section looks intact and baby bounce is still held weekly. Computers are still always busy. They don't seem to offer access to the library catalogue which is annoying if you're trying to find something and you also can't phone and renew by your library card number, you have to have each book in front of you to give the barcode. You can still return books there from other Lewisham libraries though. I am grateful for the volunteers giving up their time to staff the library (and I did see signs up asking for further volunteers in order for them to maintain opening hours, so if anyone is interested...) but I do worry about the future of the service in the longer term without a trained information services professional at the helm.

spincat said...

As far as I know the catalogue has been down across the whole of Lewisham libraries - old and new - for months. I go to one of the (non-volunteer) libraries roughly once a fortnight and have not found catalogue functioning; similarly, can't renew or search online. I have heard the catalogue will be available to the former libraries as well as the ones still run by the council when it comes back and that we'll be able to get books transferred on request from other boroughs so catalogue will be shared with other boroughs. Good news if true.

Karen Jonason said...

As one of the lead campaigners to keep Crofton Park Library open, I am pleased that the comments have been largely positive. A few issues: catalogue problems seem to be occurring across Lewisham. You can renew online but sometimes the system isn't functioning properly. The opportunity to get books from across London is working well. The books which were removed from Crofton Park were either duplicates (in some cases triplicates) or books that hadn't been borrowed for a couple of years. People are calling in to offer their volunteering services almost daily. We are particularly looking for a small team to take on the garden and side grassed area.

bob said...

It's really depressing going into the library now - a fraction of the books, a fraction of the users, miserable atmosphere, no facility to renew books or pay fines on books taken out elsewhere or not physically with you, don't inform you when your books are overdue, disconnected from the Lewisham library service... Not a success at all.

kolp said...

You can use Southwark or other borough's libraries with your library card.

Brockley Nick said...

@Bob - That is very sad to hear (although sort of how I felt about the library in its previous guise). Will have to check it out.

Karen Jonason said...

I take on board the criticisms however, would you rather have no library in Crofton Park?

Librarian Tom said...

Yes.

Volunteer run libraries never work. I would far rather the council ran a small number of libraries well.

Brockley Central Label Cloud