I wasn't able to attend Monday's meeting on Crofton Park library so I asked fellow Green Charlotte Dingle, who was there, to send me a quick report on this important issue.
Lewisham council recently revealed that it has identified libraries as a prime target for cuts over the next few years, with plans afoot to shut a number of them for good. On the council’s hit-list are the Blackheath Village, Crofton Park, Grove Park, New Cross and Sydenham libraries.
Crofton Park library has been earmarked as the first candidate for closure because the building is in dire need of refurbishment and, after Blackheath library, it is the library currently costing the council the most money. A consultation meeting on its proposed shutdown took place at St Saviours Church in Brockley on Monday 23rd August, with around 100 people in attendance.
The consultation saw various proposals outlined by council officers, including keeping the library open by allowing volunteers to run it. However, they didn’t really outline any particularly well thought-out alternatives, and spent a lot of time skirting around questions, such as where the volunteers would come from. Perhaps they expect the sacked Crofton Park librarians to come back and work for free? Their suggestion that existing staff would be ‘redistributed’ amongst the remaining libraries in Lewisham was nonsense to anyone with a basic grasp of maths, so despite their best efforts, there was little doubt in everyone’s minds as to the inevitable fate of the library’s current staff.
Amongst those speaking from the floor were a foster mother who said her charges had found their lives transformed by the library; a primary school pupil who begged the council not to take away her primary source of research materials for school projects; a disabled woman in her 90s who told us she would be unable to travel to a library further out; and the library’s head librarian, who claimed to have seen the library consistently well-attended for the past 50 years.
The cuts have to be made somewhere (although perhaps not to the draconian degree that Lewisham council seems to believe), but taking away valuable community resources is surely not the answer. The woman who pointed out that various council officers are raking in around £100,000 a year perhaps made one of the most valid points of the evening...