Campaign News

Your committee are keen to see all Friends of the library campaigning to keep Lambeth’s funding for the library run by professional library staff. Our efforts will be most effective if they are coordinated with those of the Friends of the other libraries affected. Discussions on how to proceed are in progress and we hope to have some news in this respect shortly.

A letter has been received from the Secretary of the Shadow Trust Board which is trying to arrange a takeover of the building contrary to the Friends’ aims and opposition expressed by members at general meetings. It reiterates the Board’s position that if the takeover succeeded the library would be excluded from the community space and only accommodated somewhere on site as a commercial letting, on the same terms as business users in the building. As there has never been any possibility of Lambeth funding rent, the Board are, in effect, insisting that the library will close. The suggestion that the Friends run a library is impractical for the same reason. Funding to pay rent for a library is not available from grant-making bodies and the Friends could not raise the necessary income elsewhere. The market rent would be £11 a square foot. For example, the rent on what is currently the children’s library alone would be nearly £10,000 a year.

The Board suggests that funding could be available from an “Endowment Fund.” However, little, if any, money is likely to be available from this and there is no possibility of it funding rent. Set out below are:

  • The Board’s letter
  • An analysis of the fund by our previous Chair. This has been circulated to the Friends of other libraries and there appears to be a broad consensus that it is accurate
  • A summary of our proposals and the competing proposals from the Board

Lambeth Community Library Fund

Page 17 of “Cultural Services by 2020” tells us that  Lambeth are  'proposing' to create a fund which 'will provide between £350,000 and £450,000 revenue per year in perpetuity.'

Like all content of Lambeth documents, this needs to be read with care. It does not say that the council will make any commitment about how long the fund will exist. I have heard that when answering questions from staff, Cllr Edbrooke disclosed that Lambeth would have discretion to terminate the fund, apparently at any time, and take back the money for use for any purpose of the local authority.

Lambeth would also control what grants are made from the fund. There is no suggestion, so far as I can see, that community libraries rather than groups carrying on activities in libraries or other locations will receive grants from the fund. The only commitment is to “support proposals to access the fund.” I suspect that this would be support for access by groups using those libraries or any other location in Lambeth.

If Lambeth controls the duration of the fund and the money coming out, I can see only one difference of substance between setting up the fund and Lambeth simply keeping the money and making grants. This is where the “in perpetuity” becomes very relevant. The implication is that the pot of money for making grants will be limited to the yield from the long-term investment of £10 million. Income of this type is normally expected to increase over the years, suggesting that Lambeth are expecting no more
than £350,000 a year initially and possibly somewhat less. The yield on UK Government bonds is currently no more than 2% per annum and the current yield on the UK stock market, as measured by the FTSE “All Share” index, is 3.2% p.a. These yield figures do not take into account management charges, which investment managers usually deduct from the income.

Grants would be for “Literacy development and the love of reading, including the early years reading programme” suggesting that a substantial sum from each year’s income would be used to replace existing funding for these purposes. We might reasonably wonder whether the amount of income remaining would be large enough to justify the work involved in applying for grants.

Stephen Carlill

The Competing Proposals

The Friends’

The Shadow Trust Board’s

Now that the libraryhas been refitted with bookcases etc on wheels, making the public spaces more flexible:

  1. Continue to have all public areas available for their current uses and more during the hours the library is operating.
  2. Outside library hours make the public areas available for an even wider range of uses.
Banish the library from the public areas and, accordingly, strip out the refit.   (The “B&Q what happens when decisions are made by people lacking the skills and understanding of how to work with an architecturally significant building.”[1])
Broaden the range of community use in ways which are complementary to the existing community spaces in Herne Hill and the proposed redevelopment of the stable block in Ruskin Park. Duplicate other local provision by competing:

  1. With local church halls by leaving the “Main Hall[2]” empty except for stacks of furniture[3].
  2. With the stable block by opening in the library a bar selling alcohol late into the evening of every day of the week[4].
Provide a library service as part of the community use of the public areas, without charging rent. Accommodate a library somewhere “on site[5]” but only as a commercial letting paying the same rent and service charges as business users[6].
Continue to provide the Home Delivery Service, the library service for the housebound, from a room in the basement. Discontinue this service, at least from the Carnegie, and try to let out the room[7].
Continue the existing informal arrangements for ongoing consultation with individuals and groups and augment these with a formal users’ consultative committee. Broaden the committee’s membership as more groups use the public spaces and eventually form a representative body to take a transfer of the building. Never consult users of the building on the arrangements for governance.   Instead get Lambeth to appoint trustees who would not be accountable to local people[8]. Transfer the building to the trustees.
Continue with day-to-day management of the building by the library manager as part of her duties. Employ administrative staff and provide them with one or more offices in the building.
Lambeth would bear the cost of staffing to provide a professional library service. This is £125,000 a year[9]. Other costs can be covered by rents and other income from the building[10]. Total costs without a library service would exceed £150,000[11] a year and rents would cover about half[12], leaving a deficit of about £75,000 a year.

[1] Email from the Board’s Secretary 14 January 2015

[2] Ibid

[3] Presentation by the Board to the Friends on 19 November 2014

[4] Included in the Presentation and stated to be “the preferred option”

[5] The Board’s Memorandum of Understanding dated 26 October 2014

[6] Carnegie Library Options Appraisal Report 11 July 2014 paragraphs 5.2 and 5.3

[7] The room numbered 3 on the plans to ibid

[8] Meeting of the board on 5 February 2015

[9] Lambeth’s Libraries Budget Comparison 2013/14 to 2014/15

[10] Ibid and A Review of the Carnegie Project Group’s Proposals pp10-11 and 13, available on the Friends’ website

[11] The Carnegie Library Community Hub Project Options Appraisal Report 11 July 2014 paragraph 5.5

[12] The said review p13

14 thoughts on “Campaign News

  1. All very well and good luck, but (1) the political climate has changed, (2) Lambeth determined sometime ago that it did not want to own or manage this building and (3) there is no money for the service you want. I hope the Friends are also working on a Plan B to either run a community library on the site in conjunction with the “Shadow Trust” or to make its own bid to run the building including library. Otherwise I expect there may be no library in the building in 15 months time. It’s time to wake up to the reality of the situation here.

  2. There are several layers of reality to sort through as yet. It was apparent at the options consultation meeting (though not in the consultation documents themselves) that the project group was depending heavily on getting generous rent from the library service in order to make its plans work. Now we see there is none on offer.

  3. As an outsider to most of these discussions (but a Friend) I wondered … what efforts have been made by the Friends to work with the Project Group?

    Also I understood that there was a consultation of local people to see what they wanted of the building/library. What were the results of this?

    In an earlier discussion I heard that the library isn’t used much by teens and those in their early 20s who are studying because it’s only open for about 30 hours a week and then not at easy-to-remember times. If that’s right, isn’t that a big problem?

    I hope some sort of a library facility can be kept/put there and be used by the many young people who need somewhere to study.

  4. There seems to be some confusion about the recent announcement by Lambeth. It is mainly about the capital value of library sites, not running costs. Lambeth plan to close and sell off quickly the two sites which would fetch the highest prices, Waterloo and Minet. They suggest that if their plan were to go ahead, they would be willing to sell shelving and other redundant fittings from the closed libraries to local people trying to set up a volunteer-run library for the community.

    Considered from the same perspective, as a site for sale for redevelopment, the Carnegie would be the third most valuable library.

    As I am the representative to the Project Group currently nominated by the Friends’ committee I take this opportunity to respond to Angus Hanton’s comment.

    The Friends cooperated fully in the setting up and subsequent work of the Project Group but it was necessary for the Friends to insist on two limitations:
    • A viable library must continue to be provided by Lambeth in the public areas of the building.
    • The owner of the building must at all times be a body responsible to local people.

    Since the beginning of October the Friends’ representative has been excluded from the Group by the expedient of not telling him when and where meetings would be held.

    The Project Group consulted the public on extensive interventions in the structure of the building to convert it from its current use as a library and letting spaces for small enterprises requiring accommodation with plenty of natural light. They did not carry out a general consultation on what people want for the future of the building or on its ownership. The Project Group have some information about the responses to the consultation but nothing has so far been disclosed to the public or to the Friends.

    There is a Shadow Trust Board intent on arranging a transfer of the building to trustees not accountable to local people. Membership is by invitation only and they refuse to invite the Project Group representative nominated by the Friends’ committee, presumably because he would have a duty to insist that any transfer be to a body representing the local community. So far as I can make out, the Board has six active members. At least five should be well known to Angus as they are some of his fellow Labour Party activists locally. The five are Fred Taggart, Carol Boucher, Jack Holborn, Stephen Whaley and Helen Schofield. I would be grateful for anything Angus can do to encourage them to abandon their current course and, instead, accept a democratic solution for the future of the building.

    Experience in neighbouring Southwark and elsewhere indicates that doubling the library hours would much more than double the use made of the library. However, such a substantial increase in the hours would obviously not be a practical possibility in the near future. I am not aware of anything in this connection which is specific to a particular age group. The purpose of the refit is to maximise use of the public spaces outside library hours, as well as when the library is operating.

    The refit of the public areas with bookcases and other furniture on wheels enables these areas to be used to the fullest possible extent as:
    • Community spaces including a library during library hours
    • Community spaces outside library hours
    As part of the refit the Teen Zone has been expanded and made more attractive.

    Use of the library is continually increasing. The main activity of the Friends is promoting the library. This includes publicising the library opening hours, and the days and times of the many and varied activities which take place at the library.

  5. As the main activity of the Friends is acknowledged here to be promoting the library perhaps someone from the management of the Friends can explain why the Friends does not do more to promote the library by using the money it collects from the public for that purpose to fund events or similar so as to increase library awareness and usage instead of hoarding the money for (in the Chairman’s words) “a war chest”. It is still the case that many locals are unaware of the library’s existence. At the date of the last accounts the Friends were sat on around 8 years average income, a clear sign of poor governance for an organisation of this type. The Chairman and his committee have repeated declined to discuss the matter with me and others. Over the years the Friends have missed the opportunity to do much that could have improved awareness and usage of the library.

  6. Dear Stephen, Thanks – that’s helpful background.

    I’m afraid I don’t quite understand part of this. I am not a “Labour party activist” and am actually politically neutral. Having met Fred and Carol a couple of times, I liked them and could see the appeal of their approach based on the “realpolitik” of Lambeth’s plans, but I was unhappy to see that they and the Friends were not seeing eye to eye. Unfortunately I doubt if I’m in a position to change anyone’s mind – I am not close enough to the issues or people.

    I remember first using the library almost 50 years ago and I recognise what an important resource it’s been – especially for young people working to pass exams and get qualifications.

    All the best with your efforts to keep a library service there. And thanks for all that you do in coordinating the Friends of Carnegie. Best wishes, Angus – 07971 748 912

  7. Stephen Lamb’s latest Comment repeats what he has written previously. The final reply is also the same, namely, that in accordance with the Friends’ constitution the finances are dealt with by the AGM in March each year.

  8. I am very confused by the posts above. I had some involvement in the early stages of the project group being set up and can see how much everybody I met in the project group and the friends cares about the future of the library. It is very sad to see such entrenched disagreement at this point.

    Surely the competing proposals are both completely dependent on Lambeth agreeing to fund them, or am I missing something? Since Lambeth asked for the project group to be set up, have they told anybody involved what they are willing to fund?

    I agree that the opening hours are hopelessly short and confusing. The opening hours combined with the difficult & unwelcoming disabled access mean that many local families avoid the Carnegie completely. I live a 5 minute walk from the library and my neighbour with twins drives every week to Dulwich library because that’s easier than remembering when the Carnegie is open and getting into the building with a double buggy. If the work proposed by the project group will improve the disabled access I think it is a good thing.

  9. I wish someone would make some signs for the inside of the building to direct people to the library from the disabled entrance. For a first-time visitor to the building, there is absolutely no welcome or any information about where to go once you are inside the external doors.

  10. Hi All,

    We can still convince the council to fund a professionally staffed, public library service at Carnegie. The library budget is incredibly small, especially when compared to the number of outcome sit delivers on. The consultation document says there is £500k unallocated wellbeing money, certainly the library service contribute to wellbeing or residents. That would leave only £350k savings which could be raised in income from the Clapham Cafe and West Norwood cinema. Let’s not give up on saving a library service before we’ve even begun.

    I set up a facebook page where people can share information and events about the threat to cut Carnegie’s entire funding.

    There is a lobby of the council on Weds 25 Feb from 6.30pm

    We must try and unite the local community around saving our library.

  11. I am not surprised that Sarah is confused.

    The Project Group initially said that a library would be “at the heart ” of any community hub but later changed their position completely. As the Shadow Trust Board, they now say that library use would be excluded from the community areas.

    The Board offer to accommodate a library “on site” but only as a commercial letting. As there is no way of funding the rent this would amount to excluding the library completely.

    The library was built with donated money on the understanding that Lambeth would thereafter pay the cost of running a library service in it. The Board now ask that the building be transferred to trustees by way of gift and that the trustees should then treat the library as a commercial tenant. This is a perfectly outrageous proposal.

    The Project Group proposed extensive interventions in the structure which would make the building much LESS welcoming to everyone. But they would not be able to fund those works anyway.

    The Friends and Lambeth Libraries working together have improved disabled access.

  12. The Friends also want to improve accessibility (the Ferndene Rd entrance is step-free via a lift, when the lift is working, but needs improvement). However, the SBT are proposing major rebuilding works – such as excavating the basement – which would cost £millions and need long-term closure of the library. FoCL opposes such rebuilding as unnecessary and impractical.

  13. Ruth is right. There is everything to play for. The £500k going begging that she identifies is a good starter. Other options are emerging.
    The project group’s current plans would cost Lambeth a great deal of money AND also drastically reduce the library service, while failing to identify any compensating source of income. I’m sure they mean well, but they are not helping themselves by refusing to engage with others – like the Friends – who have rather better ideas.

  14. The Friends are grateful for the above comments arising from the views of both supporters and opponents of the Friends’ campaign.

    We are currently in the midst of changing the arrangements for administering our website and altering a number of the site’s features. While this work is in progress we will not be able to accept Comments.

    I look forward to seeing as many members as possible at the AGM on 18th March, when progressing the campaign will be discussed.

    Jeffrey Doorn, Chair

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