Thursday, 17 February 2011

The fate of Lewisham's libraries

Well, all the protesting didn't work, for Lewisham at least. Lewisham Council today announced the closure of five libraries - Blackheath, Sydenham, Crofton Park, New Cross and Grove Park - with effect from 28 May 2011, subject to 'alternative arrangements' ie. someone/thing stepping in to run them. A lot of people expressing their anger about this on Twitter.

According to one twitterer, the UK is "on the verge of shutting down 450 of its libraries". It is heartbreaking to think of the closure of libraries - many people have written moving stories about the value of libraries. I've written previously about how dear my own local library in the Eltham Leisure Centre is to my family.

Lewisham are reportedly only saving about £1mil through the library closures, out of the £60mil or so budget cuts they need to make. So it seems a lot of public pain for too little budgetary gain - not even enough to give opportunities to make points about Eric Pickles' 'machismo' or Tory cuts (valid though they may be...)

But Councils would have had to make some cuts even faced with a more public services/Council-friendly government - unfortunately that is a reality. Though I applaud the noise that is being made about the depth and speed of the cuts which the government is compelling local Councils to make. Should Lewisham have agreed at their meeting this morning to raise their Council tax instead of holding steady? I suspect that people wouldn't want that but that each will have their own view on where the cuts should alternatively be made ie. Council 'propaganda' / Council salaries / Council *substitute your own word* / various other groups in society which we're not that keen on, etc.

So far as us in the Borough of Greenwich are concerned, we can only look on for the time being - I haven't read anything about their plans for libraries. The Eltham library which I mentioned earlier though is embedded in a Leisure Centre, alongside a swimming pool, cafe and Council offices, and in a new building - let's hope all that makes it more viable.

They're not giving up in Lewisham though - this Saturday, 19 February sees Lewisham's 'Carnival against Cuts' with protests and marches taking place all over the borough.

Hopefully for Lewisham there will be some groups, or 'social enterprises' who will step in to run the libraries, but even this feels like a half-way step to the eventual death knell. Afterall, 'Big Society', nice idea but with jobs, kids and aged parents, who has the time?   I did spot this one though on Twitter - so if anyone can help....

If there's anyone in a position to take on Lewisham's 5 libraries pls get in touch as we've got ideas from proposal for planned NXG library

Other posts I've spotted on the Lewisham library closures:
Lewisham decides to hand over libraries (esp. on Crofton Park, and over-hyphenation)
Lewisham Council pushes through library closures
Breakfast with Bullock
What-to-do-with-five-closed-lewisham-libraries (from before the closure announcements) 
New Cross library occupation: inside story (from the 6 Feb occupation of one of the Lewisham libraries)


Marion said...

What a very sad state of affairs.
Thank goodness Eltham library seems to be safe.
I find that it's always busy, no matter what time of day, which is very gratifying.
I have visited Blackheath library on several occasions and it certainly lacked the buzz that Eltham has.
I don't know what the figures are but 'use it or lose it' should always be borne in mind.

When deciding on cuts, I think some members of local councils should be looking at their own salaries first.
Have you seen what some of them are taking home?
More than the PM in some cases. Surely that can't be right.
Oooooh. Rant over!

Raven said...

Rant welcome!

I hear today though that Greenwich won't be reopening Kidbrooke Library, so that's one...

Ian Anstice said...

I do the national count of libraries threatened with closures (used by BBC, Guardian, Independent etc) - it's over 520 now That's about one in nine.

For the full list of library closures and map see

For reasons to defend libraries, please see

Raven said...

Thanks Ian. That some great work at your
Public Libraries News blog (