10 things that are wrong with the Culture2020 proposals for libraries
Actually there are many more than just 10 things wrong with Lambeth Council's proposals to close 2 libraries and cease funding another 3 (including the Carnegie) http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/culture2020-consultation/. The following are just some of the more obvious issues:
1. The aims talk about "affordable" facilities for well-being and culture - perhaps they mean "affordable" in the sense of "affordable housing" - at 80% of the market cost, this is hardly affordable by the people who have the greatest need. Whatever happened to free public services and libraries? Free public libraries have been recognised as a great social benefit for 150 years.
2. They will create a £10m endowment fund from the sales of the Minet and Waterloo libraries, to "promote literacy and the love of reading". This fund is supposed to replace the library budget for the 3 libraries (including the Carnegie) whose council funding will be stopped in 2016. But nowhere is it stated that the fund will actually be ringfenced for these libraries. Instead it will "support charities, social enterprises and community groups in Lambeth".
3. The council's own Library Commission report (included in the Culture2020 documents) emphasised that library funding should be transparent, and that each library should receive an explicit allocation of funding. Instead, libraries will need to bid against each other for variable amounts from the endowment fund.
4. The library commission further stated that Lambeth should commit to provide an additional contribution to enable communities to take on management of libraries - and this has happened with park groups such as SCCOOP - but no such transitional budget is provided for the libraries in Culture2020.
5. Vast amounts of consultation documentation is provided for people to read through - over 20 detailed documents. This excludes many people from participation in the consultation.
6. The Lambeth libraries commission reported that 80% of people were opposed to any library closures. Yet Culture2020 is proposing to close 2 libraries and leave 3 others to 'sink or swim' without effective support, so leading to the prospect of these also being closed.
7. The commission recommended that the library service should remain professionally-led, and that volunteer-run libraries were not a workable model. "We believe in a professionally-led library service" (Cllr Sally Prentice). Culture2020 is implying increased use of volunteers, and is abandoning Carnegie, Durning and Upper Norwood libraries for volunteers to run.
8. The commission emphasised that Ward Councillors should have a key role in reconciling different community views. But the 3 Herne Hill ward councillors have not yet engaged with the (politically independent) Friends of Carnegie library, and instead one councillor has joined the board of the rival STB (led by ex-councillors all from the same political party).
9. The commission recommended that any capital receipts from the sale of libraries are reinvested in improving the remaining buildings and library service. Instead, no capital investment is identified in the Culture2020 proposals.
10. The Libraries and Museums Act 1964 requires councils to maintain a 'comprehensive and efficient' library service. But the closures and withdrawals of library services will leave large areas of Lambeth without any library service, requiring Herne Hill or Vassall residents to travel to Brixton to access a Lambeth library. In the Friends of Carnegie survey of 2800 local households, 40% of respondants said they would stop using libraries altogether if the Carnegie closed.
Please respond to the consultation to oppose the library proposals, and sign the petition at: https://www.change.org/p/london-borough-of-lambeth-save-lambeth-libraries