Monday, 3 December 2018

Christmas Social & Meeting 5th December

Our next meeting will be on Wednesday 5th December at the Catford Constitutional Club at 7pm. The meeting will be fairly brief and will be followed by a Christmas social! 

Please join us to celebrate our successes so far and plan for the future. Feel free to bring friends/family and anyone else who might be interested in the campaign. 

It’s been a hectic couple of months, so we are really looking forward to a more relaxed evening and a chance to catch up with everyone.

Hope to see you all very soon!

The campaign has recently been featured in local news here and here.   

Friday, 23 November 2018

Campaign Press Release 23 November 2018

After several weeks of vigorous campaigning, the Save Lewisham Libraries Campaign group (SLL) welcomes the council’s recent decision to suspend library service cutspending a feasibility study into an alternative proposal of re-developing Lewisham Library. We thank Lewisham Mayor, Cabinet and Councillors for listening to our concerns and acting on them. We posed a number of questions at the Mayor and Cabinet meeting on 21 November 2018 and are grateful for a prompt response published the following day, which addresses some of these questions.

However, many of our questions and concerns raised have not been fully answered, but rather deferred to the outcome of the feasibility study due to be completed in April 2019. Whilst we appreciate that some answers will not be possible to give until the study is complete, there are some guarantees that SLL will continue to seek, thereby holding Lewisham Mayor, Councillors and Officers to account on issues that are a matter of public interest to constituents and library stakeholders.

In particular, in response to our question regarding potential reduction in staffing levels during the temporary relocation, the Council has responded: ‘We will be looking at the staffing levels required as part of the feasibility work. Our ambition is to ensure that any temporary library is staffed for as many hours as the current Lewisham Library.’ The campaign would like to reiterate that library staff should be valued as an integral part and indispensable asset of the new service and building development, and should be treated as such, both in consultation and continued service delivery in the transition period.

In response to SLL campaigners’ presentation at the Mayor and Cabinet meeting, Cllr Slater (Cabinet Member for Libraries) stated that “we agree that we all support a strong, innovative library service” and on inviting our representatives to speak, Mayor Egan acknowledged that “library staff and library campaigners are the experts”. We are glad this has been recognised, and it is our collective expert opinion that the Council will not be able to fulfil its statutory duties, nor its municipal and professional service missions, without the current library staff teams. 
We therefore call for the current number of posts to be ring-fenced, as we believe that this is the only way that Lewisham library service can operate within its statutory requirements. Any reduction in staffing levels will be robustly challenged by the campaign.

We still have grave concerns for the safe storage and continued public access to the archive and local history collections. Whilst we understand the council will look for “safe storage of Lewisham’s archives” as part of the feasibility study, this response does not state whether the library and information service will allow continued access to the archives through any potential redevelopment. Can the council guarantee it will fulfil its public interest duties in safeguarding and enabling public access to these collections with the newly proposed plans?

Finally, we understand that the initial focus of the feasibility study will be on financial viability, and we welcome the fact that the council have confirmed that they will not consider the freehold sale of the current Lewisham Library land to a private developer. However, in terms of consultation within the feasibility study, the Mayor has publicly stated at the meeting on 21st November that it “is really important that those conversations are had with staff and with library campaigners so we will ask that that is as transparent as it can be”. We will work with Councillors and Officers to ensure this commitment to transparent dialogue is held to.

We look forward to being part of these conversations that inform the complete feasibility study in April 2019 and will keep the wider publics of Lewisham and beyond informed on this process.

Our next campaign meeting will be in a couple of weeks - details to follow. Thank you and solidarity to everyone who has supported us so far. 

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

BREAKING NEWS: Suspension of Library Cuts

Save Lewisham Libraries Press Release re. Lewisham Council decision to suspend £450k library service budget cuts pending a feasibility study into re-building Lewisham Library 21/11/2018

The Save the Lewisham Libraries Campaign group welcomes the Local Authority’s Cabinet decision to suspend the proposed cuts to staffing of Lewisham, Downham and Deptford hub libraries.  We appreciate the extended period of time this decision has opened up to plan for a more sustainable and positive solution for library provision in the future. 

We hope that the Council's decision to rethink its investment in libraries reflects an understanding of libraries' crucial role in underpinning other public services.

We are very glad that valuable library staff jobs will be protected for the year ahead. However, we have a number of outstanding concerns about the council’s new proposal for a feasibility study into re-building Lewisham Library as part of a housing development.

Our concerns and questions are:

·     We request clarity regarding the duration of the suspension of cuts. How long will this feasibility study take and what will happen if the proposals for redevelopment are judged to be unfeasible?

·     We request that a rigorous and meaningful consultation with the Lewisham public and interested user groups is carried out as an integral part of the feasibility plan.

·     We are concerned that the council could end suspension of the staff cuts during the temporary relocation - thus diminishing the frontline service to its users and denigrating libraries greatest asset - its staff. Can the Council guarantee this will not happen?

·     We ask why has this option been re-opened as the Council’s preferred option after it had already been dismissed as a feasible option in the Council’s consultation document published less than a week ago? This option was dismissed on the grounds that:
“This would require the closure of the building. Lewisham library dealt with just under 50% of all the face to face enquiries received in 2017/18. This option would require the relocation of the archives, local history service and reference library. 
This option would deliver the required £450k saving but would require the closure of a library building. This option has therefore been dismissed although the service will continue to look at options for both short term improvements to the building that could support additional earned income and a longer-term re-provision of a central library for the borough.”

·     We request an estimated timeline for the period of closure/relocation of Lewisham library that any development project would entail, and to know how the council will mitigate the equalities impacts on communities caused by temporary relocation.

·    We are particularly concerned about the safe storage and preservation of, and public accessibility to, Lewisham’s archives and local history collections during the period of relocation. We are looking into Lewisham Library and Information Service’s professional and statutory duties on this matter. As the service itself states, the material held in the Local History and Archives Centre “is in many cases irreplaceable, so it must be treated with great care.”

·      We have further concerns regarding the restructuring of the proposed new library building and the transparency of financial planning for this new proposal. The Council is studying the feasibility of re-developing the current Lewisham Library site and building council owned homes (how high and how many is unknown at this stage) and the library housed within or underneath the new building.
This throws up many new questions:
o  Will the base land itself be sold freehold to a private developer?
o  If not, how does the council propose to fund this development?
o  If yes, does this mean that the new library floor space will be leasehold only?
o  If yes, what is the size of the floor space? Will this mean self-service only?

·     Will the Council commit to funding any budget shortfall during this period from reserves rather than transferring cuts to other Council services?

The Save Lewisham Libraries Campaign is still very much alive, and we will continue to push the Council for accountability on these decisions and ensure that it meets its statutory duties in providing a comprehensive and efficient library service for Lewisham people. We will also be closely following its Public Sector Equality Duty in ensuring that access requirements and the needs of people with protected characteristics are met by the library service. 

Monday, 19 November 2018

ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE – where will they all go now?

Have you ever been lonely? At a time when we are apparently more connected than ever before by technology, a loneliness epidemic has been declared. While there is a view that Smartphones have replaced the need for libraries, this is a gross misconception of the vital benefits that libraries have for their communities’ wellbeing. And although the free books are absolutely essential, libraries aren’t only about free books.
Imagine you are one of the five million older people in the UK whose television is your main form of company.[1]Or a teenager, surrounded by noise, misunderstood by your family, and in need of some space, and printing facilities, to get your homework done. Or a person with a mental health condition who has no safe place to go. The library is a place where everyone is welcome to go, for free, to get peace of mind, to be away from the noise or equally, from the silence. To be with others, but not be in danger. Where the kindness, skill and assistance of trained library staff might just make a difference to their day, or to their GCSE grade, their feeling of self-worth, their future opportunities in the job market, or their ability to claim the benefits to which they have a right. In the face of unprecedented economic uncertainty and social isolation, fully resourced libraries, with their warmth, their open doors and their certainty, are needed more than ever. 
And that’s before we’ve even talked about the Reading Agency’s research showing how books themselves can tackle loneliness, and improve mobility and mental health.
According to Arts Council England, the World Health Organization’s age-friendly cities initiative and Age UK, libraries are key to reducing social isolation (a risk factor for loneliness) and maintaining independence and wellbeing – enabling people to continue to claim their rights, build relationships, participate and contribute in later life. Despite this, and all the evidence that shows their role in education, to propping up the NHS, and their links to future earnings, libraries are still seen as a soft touch when it comes to budget cuts.

Save our libraries from catastrophic cuts
Earlier this month, we marched from the British Library to Westminster, in solidarity with all generations in all boroughs of the UK, many of which are experiencing the same threats to their library services. At the rally in Parliament Square, the point was made loud and clear that these services are not dispensable – in the words of Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Liverpudlian screenwriter and author, they ‘are not a luxury, not an add-on’ – but are absolutely central to the functioning of our communities and economies, and to the continuation of a long tradition of knowledge, culture and innovation in the UK. 
The theme of loneliness, and libraries’ ability to stem that, recurred several times during the rally. The loneliness of a teenager in a new neighbourhood finding solace in the library, being helped to find some information by a librarian, the loneliness of an older person breaking up their day by visiting a library, finding a new interest in local history or simply solace in the companionable silence. The desolation of a homeless person, or of a family of refugees with nowhere else to go, walking into a library for tea and toast and a friendly face, and being directed via that library to the assistance they need.
In Lewisham, we are facing a new proposal to cut costs by £450,000, half the budget for an already decimated service. The flaw in this plan is that libraries are not a cost, but an investment, and cutting this vital service can only put more strain on other services. Cuts will mean reduced hours, reduced safety, reduced access for the people who need libraries most. The most marginalised in society will become ever more marginalised and socially isolated. An investment in libraries means more than an investment in books; it is an investment in the collective wellbeing of our communities, and with that wellbeing a collective ability to function well in society, to have the confidence to do things and be things, to contribute in turn to that society.
Libraries are the key to greater possibilities
If we lose our libraries, we lose something fundamental to ourselves. Libraries give us possibilities – not just knowledge, but the sense that we are worth investing in; that we are not alone. 
An argument for reducing the funds is the decreasing usage – but this is a chicken-egg situation of a lack of investment. We still need our libraries, in ways that we might not appreciate until it is too late. Every time I go into Lewisham library, whatever the time of day or evening, it is full; you’d be hard-pressed to get a table. Often it is groups of teenagers studying or revising, children discovering new words and worlds, and people of all ages using the computers, or being signposted or asking for assistance from members of staff - or now, volunteers who, for all their best intentions, may or may not be able to deal with the more complex queries.
There is no getting away from the fact that libraries are a casualty of the wider ideology of austerity; leave the people to fend for themselves. Indeed, the UN’s damning report on UK poverty this week identified the closure of libraries as being damaging to society, and emphasised the need for safe community spaces in crowded cities like London.
Unfortunately for the Government, what they have not foreseen is that cutting council budgets in this appalling way will lead to increased pressure on all the other services that they are responsible for maintaining. It has been well-documented that inequality, which the continued austerity agenda is exacerbating, is bad for us all. Councils, too, need to recognise that when making the horrific budgeting decisions they must now make, that libraries are more than an extra; they are central to the connectedness of our communities.

Libraries can help end loneliness
The current Government has pledged in the past three Budgets to invest in mental health care. Although welcome, this is a tragic irony, since by reducing councils’ ability to run a proper library service, they risk exacerbating the mental health crisis. It is imperative that the Government, and all those with influence over it, begin to make the connection; libraries provide a safe haven for those on the very edges of society, and are an investment in our deep human need for connectedness to other people. They underpin all the services that enable people to fully function as part of their communities and economies. And with adequate funding and forward-thinking, libraries could play a huge part in ending loneliness.

Kate Horstead

[1]Age UK: Loneliness Evidence Review (2015)

Public event to discuss the threat to Lewisham Libraries Tuesday 20th November 7-9pm at New Cross Learning

Sunday, 18 November 2018


London Borough of Lewisham has just published its draft consultation paper on proposed library cuts - which now includes four (originally two) options for implementing the £450,000 cuts.

The Council has stated that they prefer Option 4 (not 3, that's a typo!) - 'reduce staffed opening hours across Lewisham, Downham and Deptford hub libraries." "The staffed opening hours would be reduced to 35 hours per week."

On the surface, this option looks the better of these four terrible options, but we believe will still have an unacceptable negative impact on residents who use this essential service. The campaign believes that this option does not represent "a comprehensive and efficient" service for any inner-city library serving diverse communities. The service is already fully-stretched, working to capacity, so to sustain our library services and keep them truly accessible and safe for all, these three libraries have to be fully staffed at current levels.

For more detailed discussion about why the campaign continues to oppose these cuts, and how you can help, please come along to our public meeting with guest speakers and performers this Tuesday, 7-9pm 20 November at New Cross Learning.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Template Letter to send to Mayor and Councillor

Please write to the Mayor Damien Egan and your local councillors to express your concerns about the proposed cuts to library services. You can use the example letter below - or simply cut and paste the parts you would like to use. 
Don't forget to make it personal too - saying why you love your local library.
Mayor's email:
To find your local councillors simply put in your postcode here:

Dear Mayor Egan

Re: Proposed Cuts to our Library Services

I am writing to express my concerns regarding cuts to staffed opening hours in the Hub Libraries. It is proposed that £450,000 is cut from the library service budget with two options, meaning that that Deptford and Downham may have all library staff removed, or that opening hours will be reduced in Lewisham, Downham and Deptford by 45%. I find these proposals unacceptable, because they will have a negative effect on vulnerable library users and contribute to a rise in anti-social behaviour. 

I oppose these proposed cuts to library services because of the essential role libraries play in providing information, support, learning, community connections, access and assistance for the digitally excluded, and safe spaces. I believe that library services are essential for communities to thrive.

1. EQUALITY: I am very concerned about the impact of these cuts on young people in borough. With one in four of Lewisham residents under the age of 19, I would argue that reducing what's left of the already decimated library service is a crime against the next generation. Recent research studies clearly show the positive academic impact of reading for pleasure in children and teenagers, and there is real need for quiet study/revision areas for young people in the borough. However, the council’s own report predicts a rise in anti-social behaviour as a result of the proposed cuts. This will make our libraries unsafe, impacting negatively on children’s reading for pleasure. With fewer staff to ensure the safety of young people visiting libraries in Lewisham, these quiet, safe study areas will also come under threat, putting our young people at an educational disadvantage.

Older people living in Lewisham would also be affected. Libraries help to reduce social isolation and help maintain independence and wellbeing – enabling people to continue to claim their rights, build relationships, participate and contribute in later life.

Therefore, I believe an urgent Equality Impact Assessments should be made, that is full, transparent, rigorous, looking at any actions to remedy the proposed cuts - and carried out before the public consultation, so that members of the public will be fully informed as to the real impact of these proposals. 

2. PUBLIC CONSULTATION: I request that the proposed consultation is meaningful, transparent and shows that it is genuine by listening to diverse voices and acting upon our contributions. I argue that simply giving the public an either/or choice between the two proposed solutions is not a consultation. 

3. RING-FENCE THE LIBRARY BUDGET: I press you to ring-fence library budgets to protect essential, statutory services. I believe that public libraries are important for all other public services. For example, other council services signpost their users to local libraries for assistance in making online applications for Universal Credit and other benefits. Cuts to library staffing are a false economy, placing greater burden on other council services and make no savings in the long term.

I would like Mayor and Councillors to value the contribution of library staff with their expertise and relationship with the community. I ask that instead of making cuts, that Mayor and Councillors aim to improve the library service provision to a standard that we all need, as is our right. 

I look forward to your response to my concerns. 

Yours sincerely,