Carnegie Library under threat as library closures proposed
Major cuts in library services were announced by Lambeth Labour council in proposals made public on the 30th January: closure and sale of the Minet and Waterloo libraries, and ending funding and staff for the Carnegie, Durning and Upper Norwood libraries. Only Clapham, Brixton, Streatham and West Norwood are to be retained as publicly-funded. Despite increasing usage and the 4th-highest number of book issues in Lambeth, the Carnegie would no longer be included in the statutory library provision duty of the council. Instead of public funding, the Carnegie would need to compete with others for funds from an endowment set up with the proceeds of the Minet and Waterloo sales.
These proposals contradict the principles of the Cooperative Library concept (Cooperative Library Services, Lambeth Council, 2012) which emphasised the importance of a professionally-led and comprehensive library service.
Across Lambeth both parks and libraries are being transferred from public management to management by private trusts and companies. This carries the risk that what should be a public asset for all the local community becomes instead the property of a private organisation. A 'shadow trust' has been set up with the intention of taking over the Carnegie, this group has proposed options for substantial redevelopment of the building, but these options were prepared without significant community involvement and would have many financial and other risks.
The Carnegie is one of the most important community assets in Herne Hill, and it already serves as a 'Community Hub', providing adult literacy classes, computer access, IT classes, yoga classes, a children's library and many other facilities for all the community to improve skills, wellbeing, employability and to reduce isolation. Currently space is also rented out for hotdesking for local business development. The Friends of Carnegie library believe that the present successful arrangements of management led by the library service and assisted by the community can be expanded to provide sufficient funds to run the Carnegie, without the need for major building works as proposed by the shadow trust.
The building itself is an historic heritage asset, donated to Lambeth by Andrew Carnegie in 1906 for the express purpose of a public library. A previous attempt to close the library was made by Lambeth council in 1999, and was defeated by a strong community campaign. It is time again to unite and to tell the council to think again. To support the continuation of the library as a public service, please respond to the consultation at: http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/culture2020consultation and join the Friends of the library at: http://friendsofcarnegielibrary.org.uk.