Friends of Carnegie Library have successfully registered the library as an Asset of Community Value.  Our application, submitted last November, was approved by Lambeth on 13 January.  The designation recognises that the library promotes and furthers the social wellbeing of the local community.  It also ensures that, should Lambeth ever decide to sell the building, the community would be given six months to prepare a bid to buy it.

There is a lot of misinformation being spread about the library by councillors, officers and the so-called Carnegie Community Trust.  Some of the more outrageous points are countered and corrected on the Friends’ website and in our bulletins distributed to Herne Hill residents. 

The facts are that Lambeth Council plans to decommission (i.e. close) the library 31 March and hand the building to Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) for conversion into a fee-paying gym/leisure centre.  A token few books somewhere on site, with no staff, would be the only reminder of the former library.  Local councillors and others are also promoting and supporting the ‘Trust’, who aim to make unwarranted interventions in the building to impose an artificial ‘community hub’, i.e. rented and hired spaces, with, again, a token library element somewhere on site.

The Friends, by contrast, have been working since 1999 to revitalise the library, raise its profile and lead a vigorous campaign against closure.  We have an excellent cooperative relationship with our superb team of dedicated professional librarians.  The library is now thriving, with many clubs, events and activities, and continuously increasing membership, visits and borrowing.  Our petition to continue a full library service with no reduction in space, bookstock or staff was signed by 1700 people.

To ensure that any asset transfer is to a truly community-led group, we have formed a charitable Association together with seven other user groups and submitted a business plan to manage and maintain the building, financed by income generation compatible with the library.  With bookshelves and tables on wheels, there is complete flexibility to accommodate a variety of learning activities and cultural events.

Like fellow members of Friends of Lambeth Libraries, we fully support the proposal by the Head of Lambeth Libraries & Archives for a staff and community Mutual to run all 10 of the borough’s libraries, making all the savings required by recent budget cuts.  Our Association would feed into the Mutual as the community partner.  This is a far more sensible solution than the wasteful and widely unpopular GLL deal or the Trust’s schemes. 

Support for our beloved library is growing.  Over 1000 people attended the National Libraries Day celebration 6 February, with a rally that stopped the traffic in Herne Hill Road.  Adam Mars-Jones reminded us of the definition and importance of amenity, and Stella Duffy hailed Carnegie Library as a place to be a community.

Lambeth may view our libraries merely as real estate, but the council is temporary custodian; we say to them, and to GLL and bogus trusts: “Don’t steal our libraries”.  Details of a new petition can be found here:

Jeffrey Doorn

Chair, Friends of Carnegie Library