Saturday, 23 October 2010

Meeting about New Cross Library

As you may have read elsewhere, New Cross Library is one of five in the borough that Lewisham Council is 'consulting' locals about closing. As well as the fact that the council wants to save money by cutting 15-20 members of staff from its cross-borough library service, the building is apparently in a poor state. Bear in mind that Lewisham Borough has only 12 libraries in total, so this would mean almost halving the number of facilities available.

Plans to relocate the library to a new building as part of the New Cross Gate redevelopment have had to be put on hold because the redevelopment is also on hold as a result of the recession. Unfortunately that's one of the drawbacks of relying on private partners to deliver public services as part of a larger project - and clearly an issue that the council should keep uppermost in its mind as Tidemill School attempts to become an academy and take control of a community building.

The first consultation meeting in August revealed some interesting facts (full documents here):

- the building is owned by Lewisham Homes (I assume that there are council flats in the upper part). A question was asked about the cost of repairing the building but from the notes, it seems this was not answered. Assuming that Lewisham Homes has a duty to repair the building for the sake of tenants, surely the council should be investigating this possibility?

- the council is proposing various 'outreach' services to replace some of the services the library offers, and yet there is no specific budget for outreach. Again this would rely on other parties such as community groups or colleges to participate. Not really a solution for what should be a public service.

- there is not a single bookshop in the area. Of course owners of computers have access to online bookshops, but what of those people who do not have a computer at home and rely on the library for their internet access?

Although the libraries being targeted are small, and presumably more expensive to run in relation to the number of users, this proposed reduction in services is unacceptable. For many pensioners, people on a low income or the unemployed, the library offers vital access to books, music, computers and even social contact that they might otherwise have to go without, not to mention giving children an opportunity to improve their literacy skills and explore the wonderful world of books.

With a decision on the cuts looming next month, the council is holding a second round of meetings - Monday 25 October is the date for the New Cross Library consultation.
The meeting will be held at 7pm at All Saints Church, New Cross Road (at the junction with Monson Rd). All are invited to attend.

In the meantime I am glad to say that an active group has been leading a campaign against the closure, with leafleting and petitioning going on over the last few months.

To show your support please sign the petition if you haven't already done so: you can also join the Facebook group to find out about other events and protests that are planned.

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