Public meeting on the Carnegie’s future, 16th November

Lambeth Council's Cabinet has approved plans to convert the library into a "healthy living centre" based on a fee-paying gym with a "small selection of books" in the gym's lounge. There would not be any library staff; it is unclear whether the gym would be staffed. The conversion works are estimated to take at least 9 months and close the building for most of 2016. The Friends are holding a public meeting on Monday 16 November at 6.30 for 7-8.30pm in the Carnegie, to discuss the plans, and our work to oppose these and to promote alternatives.

Here are the slides from the meeting: Friends of Carnegie Library(1)

We will be posting more information on the campaign shortly. Thanks to everyone for your support!

What does Lambeth mean by a “Neighbourhood Library”?

This term was introduced by Lambeth in its Culture 2020 Report, which is available at
Cabinet report
in the Full cabinet papers.

The report uses the following key definitions :-

"Healthy Living Centre" is a gym which has a lounge. [1]

"Neighbourhood Library" is a self-service facility in the gym's lounge offering "a small selection of books," [2], Wi-Fi access and computers. [3]

In other words a "neighbourhood library" would not be a library.

[1] Page 45 paragraph 7.9

[2] Page 154
[3] Page 30 paragraphs 5.21 and 5.22

Please sign our petition against the cuts

We have started a petition to ask Lambeth to maintain a full library service at the Carnegie, please sign this at:
petition. This is also available in printed form in the library.

Some recent articles about the Culture2020 proposals are:

InDulwich article

The wedding venue that never was

£7,000,000 capital investment from Lambeth for Brixton Rec, run by Greenwich Leisure Limited, trading as Better, the very organisation lined up to take over the Carnegie. What's going on, I thought we were cutting budgets?

Library users furious over plan to turn the Carnegie into a gym

Lambeth Council has announced plans to spend a million pounds transforming most of the local library space at Herne Hill's Carnegie Library into a commercial gym and then further hundreds of thousands of pounds subsidising its use by Greenwich Leisure Ltd.

Surveys of local residents carried out in 2000 and 2014 disclosed no demand for a gym at the Carnegie, but Lambeth are nevertheless pushing ahead with the plan, with no further consultation.

The library would be closed completely for at least nine months while the work was being done and then reopen without any staff in a fraction of its previous space.

Jeff Doorn, Chair of the Friends of Carnegie Library, said:
"This will destroy our library which is a flourishing hub of the local community and promotes the health and wellbeing of people of all ages and fitness levels, not just the minority who will use a gym. At a time of financial stress Lambeth should be using its limited resources for the public benefit instead of throwing money away and destroying services."

Our letter to councillors

Ahead of the critical cabinet and council meetings in October which will decide on the future of the Carnegie and other Lambeth libraries, the Friends wrote to all 63 Lambeth councillors to remind them of all the benefits that libraries and librarians provide, and why they should vote against the `Culture2020' proposals.

Here is our Cover letter to the councillors, photographs and background on the library: For Councillors, the Herne Hill Society response to Culture2020:
Sgd HHS sub 2020 except Archives, details of
some of the things Public Librarians and Library Staff do, and a summary of the Friends proposals for the future of the library, compared to the Shadow Trust Board's: Appendix C

A Library for Everyone

The following article written on behalf of the Friends was published by the Herne Hill Society in the Summer edition of their magazine.

Carnegie Library is a hive of activity. Whether you want to create, learn, socialise or simply relax on your own the library is for you.

All ages are welcomed. For the under fives there are Wriggle and Rhyme sessions where up to 100 children at a time alternate quietly listening to stories with explosions of activity. For 7 to 11 year olds there are Chatterbooks sessions to discuss books they have read. A popular weekly Chess Club attracts mainly children.
Groups for adults include literacy clubs, giving those who did not learn to read as children a second chance, reading groups and a conversation club for non-native speakers of English. Silver Surfers is a friendly social group for those of us who are older to develop our computer and internet skills.

All of the above groups and more are provided free of charge, as are books to borrow and the use of computers and the internet. The importance of this cannot be overemphasised. Despite the middle class appearance of its immediate surroundings, the library serves one of the most deprived areas in the country. Also, once children get into reading it is common for them to get through five junior fiction books a week. The weekly budgets of most families with children do not stretch to buying those books, not even second hand.

The library costs £200,000 a year. Working from what the current tenants are paying, the Friends estimate that the rents from areas not required for community use will amount to £80,000 a year, making the net cost of our library about £120,000 a year. This represents excellent value for the Council given all that the library does to promote wellbeing, social inclusion and equality of access to opportunities and services.

As part of their recent Culture 2020 proposals Lambeth nonetheless propose to stop funding our library. They suggest that local people could provide an all-volunteer library service but, as explained by the Herne Hill Society in its response to the proposals, that would be completely impractical. Seven of Lambeth’s ten libraries are subject to similar proposals. The remaining three, one in each of the borough’s Parliamentary constituencies, are promised a mixture of professional and volunteer staffing. The Carnegie Friends together with Friends groups from other libraries are campaigning for funding to be continued and expect to succeed in this.

A potential distraction unique to the Carnegie is the Shadow Trust Board. Membership is by invitation only. Most of the eight members are Lambeth Labour activists but there is no reason to think they are representative of the Council’s Labour Group as a whole. The Board proposes that the building and its rental income be transferred to unelected trustees who would use some of the space for community activities. These activities have not been specified but I assume that they could easily be accommodated in the library outside library opening hours. Financial details have not been disclosed but the idea seems to be that charities and other grant-making bodies might be persuaded to replace Lambeth as the main funders. The problem with that would be that none of those funders would give money for what in effect would be a public library and so books and all of the current activities described above would have to be excluded from the community areas. The Board has proposed that unspecified space “on site” be rented by the Friends on a commercial lease for use as a library but that obviously would not work. We could not raise enough money to pay rent for an adequate amount of space or to pay for staff.

The responses of the Friends and the Society to the Culture 2020 proposals are available at
Stephen Carlill
Vice Chair, Friends of Carnegie Library

An article from the Shadow Trust Board was published at the same time and a summary of some of the misinformation in it can be downloaded here STB art Summer 2015

Writing to Councillors

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 21st September, 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:


From 4 June 2015, the library will be open on Thursday afternoons from 1.00 – 6.00pm in addition to its normal opening hours. This will allow for greater use, and in particular, give students revising for exams an additional facility for homework, research, computer use and free Wi-Fi.
This is welcome news because for years, Friends of Carnegie Library have been calling for longer opening times following the reduction from 34 to 16 hours a week from 1997 and the partial restoration to 31 from 2003.
With all the events and activities now on offer, and the friendly, welcoming library staff, statistics for membership, visits and loans have been growing by leaps and bounds. Add the recent refurbishment and attractive new furniture, plus a growing demand for yet more activities and it was clear an increase in opening hours was needed.

This extension of our public library hours to 36 a week comes at no extra cost to Lambeth, as it is covered by normal staff salaries. The extra five hours should boost the service and encourage even more visits.
Despite this good news, the entire service at the Carnegie is under threat. The results of the Culture 2020 consultation responses and Lambeth’s reaction are expected to be published within the next two months.
If the council decided to press ahead with its proposals to close two libraries and withdraw all funding from three others, including Carnegie, we would lose our professional library staff. It would then be impossible to provide anything like the current level of service, either in terms of opening hours, number and range of books, other material, events and activities; and the library as we know it would close.
To help prevent this, please lobby your councillors and if not already a member, join the Friends and the library.