Residents in Croydon love their libraries. The campaigns for individual libraries combined forces as Save Croydon Libraries campaign to fight the cuts more effectively in the past, and are already networking again. Friends of South Norwood Library has joined with Save Sanderstead Library campaign and there are plans for a campaign for Shirley library too.
Croydon Council’s dire situation has been laid bare, following the release of their auditor’s Report in the Public Interest. Corporate blindness was highlighted as just one of the issues that caused the council to issue not one, but two, Section 114 notices, in succession.
Whilst there have been lots of assurances given that there will be a genuine consultation undertaken in the new year – not snuck out in the pre-Christmas period, it is extremely worrying to learn that councillors and at least one Croydon MP are already promoting community-run models for libraries. This action severely undermines the Council’s message that a genuine consultation will take place.
The Cabinet member responsible, whilst promising a consultation in the new year, has made clear that these libraries would need to run at cost neutral to the council. The fact is that libraries cost relatively little to run but deliver a lot, if well run and well managed.
The value of libraries to deliver was outlined in the Red Quadrant report, commissioned by the current council administration in 2018, no doubt at cost to the residents of Croydon. It also outlined recommendations that would lead to cuts and de-staffing of libraries.
The clear message from all previous campaigns to save our libraries in Croydon is that people really value:
- the staffing of the libraries – skilled library workers and librarians to guide, inform, engage
- the library being open and staffed in accessible locations, so people can access them when they need them and feel safe to do so, with the assistance they need on hand
- good book stock and facilities – The Council administration has signed up to be part of the London Libraries Consortium which has had a positive effect on addressing the very poor book stock available in our libraries after successive cuts. The introduction of no fee to reserve an item was another positive step introduced by the current administration.
- the range of service delivered – access to IT, a place for shelter, for education, to connect with others and the local community, provision of information and support, for homework, research, spaces to study, support to complete online applications and searches, for leisure, to access council and local community information as well as advice and resources for health and wellbeing. The list goes on!
Concerns are that all this will be lost, and more!
I’m chairing a meeting via Zoom on 16 December 2020 as a follow up to meetings we’ve held previously on libraries, with my other hat as Chair of CCC – a community group in Croydon. I’ll be declaring my interest at the meeting, as I have before and before that! A solicitor and associate of Watkins and Gunn, a law firm that has fought cases for public libraries through to Judicial Review at the High Court, will be attending to offer advice.
Public libraries is not a party-political issue, it is a community issue. I’d encourage anyone with an interest in Croydon libraries to get involved.
Details of the meeting can be found here.
Save Croydon Libraries Campaign