The council has announced the 2nd phase of the Carnegie Library redevelopment works: the fit-out of the gym and removal of the library space to one front room. The cost is approximately £1 million, additional to the £1.8 million spent so far on the basement excavation and additional buildings on the library garden. A `roof terrace' or `roof garden' has also been proposed by the CCT, but this would require planning permission and an additional £100,000 which is not included in the budget. The works are expected to be complete by December.
The proposal also confirms that the current provision of 2 hours librarian staffing per day is only a temporary arrangement - funded by one-off Section 106 funds - and gives no assurance of any specific librarian staffing for the eventual re-opening of the library.
The opposition Green councillors submitted a call-in of the proposal, on the grounds of the lack of details of the financing of the work. This call-in was rejected but Greens leader Scott Ainslie is appealing this rejection.
The `community liaison' group meeting with the council over construction issues has been re-activated. Please contact the Friends if you would like to be added to this group.
The Herne Hill Forum are hosting a hustings for Herne Hill (Lambeth) & Village (Southwark) wards, at 7pm on the 17th April, at Herne Hill Baptist Church (Winterbrook St).
Library campaigners will be requesting that the Herne Hill candidates sign the Defend the 10 libraries pledge. So far the Green, Lib Dem and independent candidates have signed.
The Friends are working as community partner with Lambeth Archives on a project to restore the memorials formerly in Carnegie Library basement. Having discovered them there many years ago, we felt it was a shame to leave them on the floor gathering dust. Liaising with Herne Hill Society, we met with one of the Lambeth Archives managers in 2009 to list and photograph them, with the idea of cataloguing them and trying to learn their provenance. When the library was closed and preparations being made to excavate the basement and clear out the building, we expressed concern that the memorials needed to be carefully moved to a place of safety and their future ensured. They are in Brixton Library basement for now.
The 24 memorials range from brass plaques to alabaster marble and other stone monuments; two came from schools, others are from the Boer War, WW1, WW2 and also to individual vicars or parishioners, etc. A book on St Saviour's Herne Hill (then in the local history section of the library) confirmed that the alabaster WW1 memorial in two sections had been in that church (including a middle section with St George, now missing), as was one to a woman parishioner, Harriot Nicholson who died in 1918. Preliminary sessions have taken place in St Saviour's School (built on the site of the church), including Year 6 learning about Harriot and her family.
St Saviour’s Church was demolished in 1981, the same year the library and the parish hall were listed Grade 2. Its memorials were taken down and stored in the library undercroft alongside plaques from All Saints Church, South Lambeth and elsewhere. We are working with Lambeth Archives staff to secure funding to restore all the memorials. Conservation specialists Taylor Pearce have given advice and City & Guilds of London Art School are interested; the War Memorials Trust may be able to offer match funding.
The restoration project includes workshops about conservation, research, and community memory. At the end of the project it is hoped that the fully-restored memorials will go on display.
Detailed condition reports from architects and surveyors have confirmed that the library building:
- Is in good condition, and
- Can be expected to remain so for the next decade or two provided a proper programme of routine maintenance is carried out.
Specifically, the architects and surveyors advised that the roof gutters must be cleared of leaves twice a year to prevent the gutters overflowing and discharging rainwater into the front rooms of the building.
Clearing the gutters is a simple matter of accessing the roof from inside the building through a trap door and then walking along behind the parapet walls collecting the leaves.
For years Lambeth's property management failed to clear the gutters until water came in and eventually spent a six figure sum on repairs to plaster mouldings damaged by the water. After the repairs Lambeth still omitted to clear the gutters.
Shortly before the Council's cultural services were due to be inspected by the Audit Commission the Friends complained to the Commission about this and other matters. A one-year contract to clear the gutters quarterly was put in place before the Commission's inspection team arrived. At the end of the year it lapsed and water came in again. Lambeth insisted that the contract could not be renewed because "no paper trail" existed for setting it up in the first place.
In response to further complaints Lambeth responded that library staff must wait for the gutters to overflow before the gutters could be cleared because Lambeth did not have a budget for "preventive maintenance" of library buildings but only a budget for "reactive maintenance."
Eventually the library service gave up hope of getting any sense out of the property managers and themselves arranged for the gutters to be cleared twice a year. There was then no further ingress of water for a few years until Lambeth closed the Library in March 2016 and handed control of the building to its property managers. The gutters were due to be cleared the next month but this was not done and more water came in. The necessary routine clearing was still not arranged. The front rooms are currently too damp to occupy. The plaster work is in a disgusting state and will no doubt require more very expensive repairs. The following photograph was taken in April last year. The damage will no doubt be far worse by now.
Lambeth have saved hundreds of pounds by omitting to clear the gutters and then spent tens of thousands of pounds repairing the damage which they knew would inevitably result. In due course they will no doubt argue that the building has to be sold because its maintenance costs are so high. To add to the cost Lambeth have had their contractors put up scaffolding twice for no reason, damage and then replace roof slates and done completely unnecessary work to the roof. Details are here.
As the May Council Elections approach, Lambeth are becoming somewhat more informative. Campaigners for the library now need to keep up and intensify the pressure for reinstatement of our library.
The latest from Lambeth is:
• They have stopped vacillating about whether the gym operator, GLL, would use the ground floor. The gym definitely will be confined to the basement even though this will not be deep enough for users to raise their hands above their heads or jump.
• Before the Council Elections and possibly as early as mid-February, a library service will be provided in the two rooms either side of the main entrance lobby, which are mirror images of each other. The room on the left is the one which used to be divided by a stud partition to provide the Children's Library and the Art Gallery. One room would contain 18,000 books, leaving very little room for people. The other would contain computers and study space. There would not be any space for socialising or group activities. No staff would be based on site but a single Library Assistant or Librarian would visit for about two hours most days.
• Gym users would normally enter the gym at basement level using a card-in-a-slot machine. Additionally, GLL would have a reception desk in the main entrance lobby and the library would be open, though unsupervised, whenever the reception were staffed. This is expected to be as much as 70 hours a week for a time after the gym opens and GLL are trying to sell gym memberships but can be expected then to drop off, eventually to nothing. Additionally, Lambeth have arranged for GLL to staff the reception for 36 to 40 hours a week from the opening of the library until the gym opens a few weeks after the Elections.
• The Trust would have the main room as a hall to hire out or pay people to use. The public will not be allowed to see inside it until after the Elections. The kitchen and adjoining small meetings room are being converted into toilets for the users of the hall, leaving the building without a kitchen.
The gym, library and hall are all clearly not viable but the current plans are an improvement on what Lambeth, GLL and the Trust were saying previously. The Friends will continue the campaign for reinstatement of a proper library and hope that the campaign will have even more support than ever in the run-up to the Elections.
For the second year running, we are holding our Winter Fair in exile. From 1999 to 2015, the fair, spread over the public library rooms, grew to become the most popular one around, an unmissible event for people of all ages. With the library closed, we are continuing to stage a fun day for all, to show we are still here.
This year we will be in St Saviour’s Church Hall on Saturday 2 December, open from 11.00 – 3.00, with an array of community stalls, craft stalls, a raffle, refreshments, activities for children and a few surprises. Come along and show your support for our campaign to reopen Carnegie Library, not as a diminished so-called ‘neighbourhood library’ but with full service.
We understand St Saviour’s roof is in need of repair. This may restict our space a bit; but we will make the most of it. The lovely 1914 arts & crafts building was listed Grade II the same year (1981) as the library.
We have adopted the phoenix image this year as it symbolises rebirth and surmounting great obstacles. With it, we send a message to Lambeth Council in the words of Maya Angelou:
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
The Carnegie Library Association has been set up by the Friends, in partnership with other library user groups, in order to apply to Lambeth for control of the library and its grounds through an asset transfer process. The Carnegie Library Association's aim is to reinstate the professionally-run library along with the community activities which were there before, plus new ones compatible with the library. Maximum use would be made of the whole building, including uses to raise money to subsidize the cost of providing the library service. It is really important that we are able to demonstrate as much local support as possible, particularly before the deadline for the bid which is 28th October. Please sign up here:
The Association is registered as a democratic Charitable Incorporated Organisation with limited liability and membership is free until the first AGM in March 2017, so you are not making any financial commitment.
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
There will be a rally at the library on the 6th February from 2pm, to oppose the council's plans to transfer the library to Greenwich Leisure Ltd, and to support the staff/community plans to continue the staffed library service. Speakers will include local author Adam Mars-Jones, and Tim O'Dell from UNISON.
Spin or Worse?
Our December bulletin has been published, with updates on Lambeth Council's plans for the library, and our alternatives: December Bulletin
A new site has been launched for the Lambeth Libraries campaign:
Defend the 10