Libraries are for “White Elite” (According to Lambeth Council)

The Friends have obtained four documents under the Freedom of Information legislation relating to the assessment of the business plans submitted to Lambeth by Carnegie Community Trust and the democratic Carnegie Library Association respectively in support of their competing bids to take over the building. Below are links to these and a copy of the assessment published by Lambeth.  We are still battling to obtain a copy of the Trust's full business plan.


The documents obtained confirm that the Trust's plan is essentially to exclude the library, though a "limited number of books" would be available and it is envisaged that there will still be two-hour visits from librarians.  Instead of a library the Trust propose to have a cafe or cafe bar run entirely by volunteers and serving hot and cold meals as "the real social centre."


The obvious question is what is wrong with a library?  The answer  seems to be that it is "seen as white elitist - catchment area is multi-cultural; building does not offer anything for some communities."  This bigoted nonsense appears to be part of a wider problem with senior people at the council.  The local branch of the Labour Party is demanding action to counter "a growing problem of institutional racism in Lambeth Council" and UNISON has published some disturbing figures on its website:


As they would not want a purpose-built library, the Trust would want to "reshape the building."  After detailed inspections architects and building surveyors have advised Lambeth that the building will need substantial long-term maintenance work in 10 to 20 years time.  The democratic Association are content to raise the necessary funds and do this work in due course.  There is a possibility of 100% Lottery funding, as was provided to the councils which applied in the last round of Lottery funding for libraries.  The Trust propose to do the work quickly combining it with the reshaping at a total cost of about £5 million.  They hope to get 50% from the Lottery and Cllr James Chatterton Dickson informs us that Lambeth will pay the other 50%.


Overall the officers preferred the Trust to the Association for the Council's preferred bidder, ostensibly because the Trust's plans are supposedly "more ambitious."  So far as appears from the documents this ambition comprises the reshaping of the building, of which no details have been disclosed, and the replacement of the library by a cafe or cafe bar.


The following table summarises the plans of the democratic Association and the Trust.

  Carnegie Library Association Carnegie Community Trust
Changes to the use of the ground floor and the first floor office from the uses prior to closure in 2016 Additional community uses and income generation but all of this would be compatible with the primary use as a public library. Library use would be excluded (though there would be "a limited supply of books").


A cafe or cafe bar run entirely by volunteers and serving hot and cold meals would be "the real social centre."


Instead of the desk spaces being marketed specifically to artists and other creatives, for whom the well-lit spaces are especially suitable, space would be offered to anyone wanting it.

Income and expenditure Detailed plan to generate sufficient income to run the building and buy in library service from Lambeth.


Income from the basement assumed to be between £12,000 and £25,000 a year.


No grant income for running costs.


No paid staff. (Lambeth would employ the library staff)

Less detailed plan but broadly similar figures for income generation.  There would be less income from the desk spaces but the cafe bar would be expected to produce a profit.




Income from the basement assumed to be £87,000 a year.






Grants of £50,000 a year towards running costs assumed to be permanently available but not yet found.


Two paid staff, costing £80,000 a year.



Asset transfer published assessment
Asset transfer officer panel: CLA
Asset transfer report, CLA
Asset transfer officer panel: CCT
Asset transfer report, CCT