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An open letter on Lambeth Libraries

I understand that there are strong feelings about the future of Lambeth libraries.  Libraries are valued public services that play an important role in providing space, books and enabling community activity.  

The reality for public services is that they have to change because of austerity. You may be fed up with the mantra of government cuts as a justification but I am fed up with the reality of them. Cuts of 56% mean we have to prioritise where we spend money and how.

In Lambeth we have decided rather than closing services, we want to change the way we do things. That does not mean everything is up for grabs. We have clear commitments:

  • Much has been made of us closing libraries. I want to be absolutely clear that we are defending 10 Lambeth libraries. There are ten libraries now and ten in the future.
  • Overall, Lambeth libraries will be open longer and book stocks will be protected
  • We will not lose our ambition to improve: we have committed to two new libraries in the coming years, recently built a new Clapham library (below) and we have refurbished Streatham & Brixton.



But change is hard and austerity is very challenging, particularly if it is your local service.

In Carnegie I fully accept that Lambeth Council has made this more difficult than it needed to be. We did not act quickly enough to work with, and relocate, existing user groups.  We did not communicate effectively enough that the library is not closing permanently nor is it turning into a gym.

Instead the promise for Carnegie is:

  • That it will reopen in 2017 and will remain free and open for all. It is not closing permanently.  
  • The gym will be housed in the unused basement.
  • The rest of the building will occupy the same community space, including a library service and we can extend the opening hours from the current 31 to 70 hours per week.
  • The building will be fully staffed at all times and dedicated library staff will be on site regularly.

The situation we are now in is not making it any easier. The occupation means that we are spending money on security and court hearings that should instead be spent on services.

This doesn’t need to be the way forward. We want residents and the friends groups to work with the Council and the Trust on making the Carnegie a community hub for all. By doing so, we can expand the provision of activities that take place in the library and community space and we can encourage volunteers to become more involved in their library.

Lib Peck

Leader of Lambeth Council 

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commented 2016-04-11 11:17:38 +0100
How pertinent the comment below is to the way Lambeth Council operates under the so-called Progress groups ‘business friendly’ approach. NB a comment recently about how shocking Lambeth Libraries ‘business plan’ is. Why should they have a business plan in the first place? Unless of course they are being buttered up for privatisation and profit taking.

“The mantras of ‘good management’ or ‘doing the best under difficult circumstances’ should be dismissed for the shameful PR they are. The standards they use to judge themselves by are integral to a rotten and corrupt system. If they can’t or won’t see that, then it’s time they went.”
Nick Hostetler – Lambeth Momentum
commented 2016-04-10 16:40:16 +0100
Not convinced anyone can trust a council that has sacked hundreds of workers since 2010 and is about sack another 500.
commented 2016-04-08 20:33:41 +0100
Thank you for your letter. It is unfortunate that both sides have taken entrenched positions and are unwilling to compromise or engage in useful discussion. I agree that the occupiers are wasting
Council money. However, I understand that the head of the libraries service has produced
an alternative proposal. Could you please explain why you believe the alternative plan is not acceptable. Helen Hayes MP has taken a sensible approach to this issue. Could she be asked to bring both sides together in an attempt to find a compromise? We all need to recognize that it the Tory government
that is responsible for this situation. We need to work together to get rid of this government. If
we are disunited and fail to remove them in 2020 by 2025 there will few public libraries left
commented 2016-04-08 17:38:40 +0100
This statement is no substitute for the lack of consultation and imagination which has preceded it. The Council has demonstrated that it has no idea whatsoever what the Lambeth Library Network is, what it does, who it serves, or how it operates.
commented 2016-04-08 17:36:17 +0100
dear Lib and lambeth labour council

yet again you spin this story to make it out that you are keeping 10 libraries when you are not

you are closing waterloo, turning another 2 into ‘healthy living centres’ (unattended computers and bookshelves is not a library) Funding for staff withdrawn at Upper Norwood, and handing over West Norwood to private cinema chain
these plans wastes millions of public money and will reduce 5 libraries to almost nothing.

This plan will ruin a service that its most vulnerable citizens depend on.

Our own head of libraries in lambeth has a plan for a staff and volunteer mutual which will work and make saving from year two, lambeth rejected this plan as they thought it would be too slow to set up and would cost more in year one, but they have not looked at the longer term, only short sighted knee jerk reactions, we have proved that this plan will save money in the longer term and keep all 10 libraries

Please Jeremy Corbyn make them see sense- I joined the labour party because of you and now all i do is fight with our so called co-operative labour council

Kate Hoey has been on our side from the start and even she cannot stop them

all we want as volunteers is to work together, work out a solution, we know there are major cuts to the budget, but we have the solution.

Marjorie Landels
Friends of Minet Library and Archive
commented 2016-04-08 17:30:42 +0100
There might be a way to regain some trust: Why not reopen the libraries and actually start talking to the users and local communities that are so upset by this? The plans you have so far seem at a very early stage. In order to squeeze a gym into the basement of the Carnegie you will require plenty of logistical preparation, not to mention planning permission. Where are the details? What about the Minet? There seems to be no detail at all regarding that library. I think you need to do something soon to win back some Labour voters. As a result of the current library debacle I for one am planning to vote Green at the upcoming elections.

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