Lambeth has ten libraries. A secure future is promised to three, one in each Parliamentary constituency, with staffing by a combination of paid professionals and volunteers. The other seven, including Carnegie, are threatened with closure.
The Council suggest that what they call "community libraries" without paid staff could be provided to replace the Carnegie and other libraries. They give as an example a community library recently opened in Streatham Vale. This is 309 books in an alcove in a cafe. There is no community involvement. The Carnegie has 17,632 books.
Lambeth has a statutory duty to provide a library service and made an assessment of the need for libraries when formulating the Culture 2020 proposals. The area identified as most in need of a library is St Martin's Estate and Lambeth are now providing a small "pop up library" for three hours a week, on Monday mornings.
We must not be distracted by talk of community libraries or statutory duties. Equally, we need to reject suggestions that with funding from charities the Carnegie building could be used for community purposes after closing the library. These community uses are never specified and no charity would fund a library or other activities promoting literacy in a former library building. They would notice that that is a public library, which ought to be funded by the Council.
A Shadow Trust Board, dominated by Lambeth Labour activists, has been set up to push the idea of continuing community use. They suggest that the Friends rent some of the commercial space in the building and use that to run an all-volunteer library. We could not fund enough space or recruit and train sufficient volunteers to make this worthwhile.
Please write to the three Herne Hill Ward councillors before 13th July, when Lambeth's Cabinet is expected to make a decision on withdrawing funding. Please insist that the Carnegie continue to be funded to provide
• a professionally-staffed library
• open for at least as many hours as the current 36 a week, and
• containing as least as many books as at present.
They are Jim Dickson ([email protected]), Jack Holborn ([email protected]) and Michelle Agdomar ([email protected]). Also, please copy in our MP, Helen Hayes ([email protected]), who is in favour of keeping the library.
Personal testimony is always impressive and you may therefore wish to say why you yourself value the library. Also, you might like to pick up on some of the matters pointed out in the Culture 2020 submissions made by the Friends and the Herne Hill Society (links are on this page: http://friendsofcarnegielibrary.org.uk/2015/04/responses-to-culture2020-consultation/).