LAMBETH’S EXHIBITION ASSESSED

The two-day exhibition on Lambeth’s and GLL’s plans for the future of the Carnegie (building, not library) showed that Lambeth’s plans are still at a very early stage. The display consisted of four panels which revealed little or nothing new; even the outline floor plans were the same as published two months ago. You can view the panels here: Carnegie exhibition.

Lambeth officers, local councillors and GLL representatives were on hand to answer questions; but visitors found a lack of consistency in the replies, and in some cases profound ignorance. The Friends had produced a double-sided leaflet listing concerns and questions visitors might like to ask. This is here and here.

Visitors were invited to leave comments on a postcard; we look forward to publication of these; what has been photographed and tweeted so far reveals strong opposition and disdain.

There are serious problems with these ill-conceived plans, and to insist on imposing them would be disastrous. Once again, we invite Lambeth to work with the Friends and Carnegie Library Association for a holistic, sustainable and popular development to benefit the whole community.

Carnegie Library Association awarded £1000

On Thursday 16th June, the Friend's charitable trust was awarded £1000 as a result of a competition run at the Charter School, where teams of students bid for funds for a charity of their choice. The photo shows the winning team, Rosa Beuzwal, Oliver and Ellie, with Jeff Doorn, chair of the Association and of the Friends. The funds will be used to develop the Association's business plans to run the Carnegie building and library as a community-led trust.

OBE FOR STELLA DUFFY

Congratulations to Stella Duffy, a keen supporter of the Friends, on being made an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours. Awarded for services to the Arts, the citation lists her as “Writer and Theatremaker”, which gives only a small idea of her many accomplishments.

Stella has long been associated with Carnegie Library, hosting workshops, giving readings and attending events over the years. As Director of Fun Palaces, she inspired the hugely successful Fun Palace Day at Carnegie Library and all Lambeth Libraries on 3 October 2015. More recently, she spoke at rallies and signed up 220 authors to a letter supporting libraries and opposing closures.

A full appreciation will appear in our next Newsletter. In the meantime, we salute our dear friend and neighbour on her well deserved honour.

The Carnegie Library’s Building

Lambeth have announced that they will be putting on an exhibition about the possible future uses of the building instead, it seems, of the public meeting they were promising for many months. The exhibition will be on Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22 June. A copy of their flyer giving details is here.

The Friends' committee prepared a leaflet giving questions visitors to the exhibition may want to ask. This is here and here. In the meantime it is hoped that local people will appreciate that the Neighbourhood Library promised by Lambeth is defined by Lambeth to consist only of books, computers and Wi-Fi access in a room used for non-library purposes. A Neighbourhood Library does NOT INCLUDE a room or a part of a room set aside for library use. The Culture 2020 Report approved by Lambeth's Cabinet and, subsequently, full Council proposes that these books etc be located in a gym lounge. The initial floor plans disclosed recently show a library element mixed in with ‘flexible community space'.

Any further plans disclosed by Lambeth will need careful scrutiny. The current proposal is to let the whole building to Greenwich Leisure Limited as a Healthy Living Centre comprising a range of uses. They would not get just the basement for use as a gym.
Jeff Doorn, Chair

Response by the Friends of Carnegie Library committee to statements by the Carnegie Community Trust (CCT)

In a posting on their website dated 2nd June Carnegie Community Trust accuse the Friends' committee of lying, but there is no indication of when or where the statements objected to are alleged to have been made, and there is no distinction made between the Friends and Defend the Ten, a separate organisation.

If there is any assertion in anything written on behalf of the Friends which it is felt needs justification I would be grateful if this could be brought to my attention. We do usually give chapter and verse for anything we publish, and would be happy to remedy any apparent omission.

The CCT posting contains many more inaccuracies than we have time to correct at present. The matters concerned have already been dealt with in detail previously. However, I should mention some aspects which are likely to jump out at readers:

1. There seems to be an attempt to distract readers from the basic fact that Lambeth acknowledge that they have the money to run all their libraries but CHOOSE instead to spend this money on subsidising gyms. (Culture 2020 Report paragraph 5.8)

2. CCT refer to a proposal for an “endowment” fund and say this could have covered staff salaries. At no time was it suggested to the Friends that the fund could pay for library staff. We were invited to establish a volunteer-run library. This had already been rejected by our members in general meeting. No other Friends group would agree to volunteers replacing professional staff. (The proposal did not go ahead anyway because it was to be funded by selling off Waterloo and Minet Libraries which proved to be impractical.)

3. The CCT claim the Friends want only a library and nothing else. We have never said that; instead, we have consistently proposed developing the library for compatible wider use. The charity we set up with eight other user groups, Carnegie Library Association CIO, will do just that.

April Bulletin and Update

Here is our response to Lambeth's latest misleading leaflet:

Local residents received a leaflet on 6th April from Lambeth Council about the Carnegie Library. This is a clarification on the key points.

Plans for the library

Carnegie Library was closed by Lambeth Council on 31st March, to stand empty until it is converted into a fee-paying gym run by the leisure company GLL. No plans have been seen for the gym, nor has anyone applied for any planning permission to convert this Grade II listed building for this purpose.

A Community/Staff Mutual proposal for all Lambeth’s 10 libraries was worked up last year by the Head of Lambeth Libraries. Her detailed business plan was rejected by Lambeth, after months of delaying. This was on the basis of an assessment using criteria that have not been applied to the GLL plan, since no such plan seems to exist.

Will it still be a library or not?

The GLL gym will have a room with an unspecified number of books, but without librarians. This is what Lambeth call a ‘neighbourhood library’. In our view this is not a library.

Lambeth’s own documentation on the number of books seems to have changed, from ‘rotating stock’ and a ‘small selection’ of books in previous documents, to the ‘same stock’. This is welcome news and we look forward to hearing more detail. Presumably this means the books will stay in the same library areas, as the same stock will need the same space: we look forward to Lambeth’s confirmation. Lambeth also say there will be some computer facilities. It is not clear how many. Many people find it difficult to use computers and will struggle without dedicated library staff to help them.

However, there is no floor plan to show exactly what space will be available for different uses and where, so these statements are impossible to consider meaningfully.

The staff in the building will presumably be gym or general facilities staff. We are told that ‘library outreach staff’ will visit on a ‘very regular basis’. This confirms that there will be no professional librarians staffing the library. It is also not clear what is meant by ‘very regular’. Only £100,000 pa has been allocated to curate activities in four or five so-called ‘neighbourhood libraries’ which is absurdly inadequate. Alongside their apparent reconsideration of the number of books, we hope that Lambeth will also reconsider their position on ensuring a full-time presence of professional librarians.

Will children be able to use it?

Lambeth’s leaflet states that there will be access for children but the concern we have raised is about access for unaccompanied children, in the absence of professional librarians (who have the right checks and are trusted by the community). The question of whether unaccompanied children under 16 will be able to use the books, desk space and computers has not yet been clarified by Lambeth.

Excavating the basement

Lambeth’s leaflet now locates the gym in the ‘unoccupied basement’ of Carnegie Library. This is a new assertion, not previously mentioned formally. The existing basement is in use, and does not run the full length of this listed building because of the hill. It would need extensive excavation to accommodate a gym. This raises several questions:
• Is there any detailed plan, including proposed floor plans, for this basement gym option? As far as we are aware, there is not.
• Has planning permission been sought for this? Given that the Carnegie Library is a Grade II listed building, this is not a trivial question. Apart from being an unwarranted intervention, excavation could destabilise the building.
• Has the cost of excavating the basement been estimated? Has this been budgeted for? What portion will Lambeth Council bear and what portion will GLL bear?
• What is the fallback option in the event that planning permission is denied?

The ‘Carnegie Community Trust’

The Council has made several statements that they are working with the ‘Carnegie Community Trust’ with the intention that this Trust takes over through an asset transfer. However, this Trust is not a community organisation. It has a handful of members, including ex-councillors, and in a previous incarnation (‘The Shadow Trust’) included a serving councillor. It is not an accountable body, is not elected and does not represent the library members or visitors, the people who rent office space or the many groups which meet in the library (Ruskin Readers, Chess Club etc.) The Friends of Carnegie Library (which has an accountable governance structure) has represented the library community since 1999, working closely with the librarians and user groups to improve the library. The council has sidelined the Friends.

Cuts

Lambeth blames the library closures on the cuts to their budget. However, this is not the first time they have tried to close the library and the plan to convert the library into a gym will cost a great deal of money. Meanwhile the library will stand empty, but at a cost to the council because the building will continue to function. It houses library offices, including the home visit and stock support services, as well as those who rent desk space. Lambeth will also pay for 24/7 security guards.

Libraries are front-line services used by many vulnerable people in our community, supporting learning at all ages and reducing isolation. So Lambeth’s statements that they are protecting services for the vulnerable by closing libraries make no sense. Andrew Carnegie gave this building to the community 110 years ago for the purposes of a library because he understood the importance of libraries for education and increasing people’s opportunities in life. The Carnegie Library is a welcoming place, which is used by people of all ages and all walks of life in our community.

The #carnegieoccupation has drawn national and international attention to the plight of our libraries in Lambeth. We hope it will encourage Lambeth to reconsider. We thank all of you who have given your incredible ongoing support to efforts to save the very special Carnegie Library, along with all 10 Lambeth libraries, for our whole community and for future generations.

April Bulletin.

Carnegie Occupation!

On 31st March, the library was scheduled to be closed until 2017. Instead, over 60 occupiers - of all ages - took over the building, and have been there for the last three days. News updates can be found on twitter, hashtag #carnegieoccupation. There has been coverage by the BBC and Financial Times, and support from many other groups. Regular rallies outside the library are being organised in support - note that currently Lambeth is not allowing anyone to enter the building - not even to let children rejoin their parents.
Defend the 10 also has updates on the situation.

There will be a march starting from the Carnegie at 11.30am on Saturday 9th.

Major Decisions at 2016 AGM

RESOLVED TO BATTLE ON

Our Annual General Meeting on 17 March expressed a clear determination to continue our vigorous campaign in conjunction with Friends of Lambeth Libraries and the staff to prevent closure of Carnegie Library and other free public libraries in the borough. Angry that the Council's proposals will end up costing millions more than keeping the library as it is, a motion was proposed and passed unanimously:

"This meeting calls on Helen Hayes MP, all candidates for Mayor of London, and all candidates for the Lambeth/Southwark London Assembly seat to condemn the scandalous expenditure proposed for converting Carnegie and Minet libraries into gyms at a time of straitened public finances".

There was a motion of No Confidence in the Carnegie Community Trust as they are not a community organisation but a self-appointed group who do not represent or engage with any community groups. This passed by a large majority, the only votes opposed being from the two Trust members present.

A representative of one of the groups who meet in the library proposed a vote of No Confidence in the three Herne Hill ward councillors, asking them to stand down as they have ignored the views of their constituents. A member added that this also should apply to Jane Edbrooke in her Cabinet role. This motion and demand for all four to resign was carried unopposed.

The resolutions were copied to those concerned and the responses received are here. Approximately 60 members attended the meeting. At the conclusion of the meeting a collection was made for UNISON’s strike fund, raising £257.51.

Jeff Doorn, Chair