Monday 12 July 2021

Lewisham Council are launching a consultation on our Library Service. We have concerns that the way it is worded may mislead residents into losing crucial parts of the service. And also that others cannot access the consultation at all

The council say that “the Library Service will be reducing its costs by £300,000 per year and will do so while looking at how best it uses staff.” and “We plan to maintain our building opening hours but may need to change the way we work, and we can do so by better understanding how your life has changed in the last year and what issues will be critical to your lives in the next few years. We welcome responses from all of our residents, visitors to Lewisham, services users and those who have never used a library before. We’d also like to hear from organisations that already work with the library service or would like to work with us in the future.”

But in this cosultationnstead of asking a straightforward question, “do you want library staff in your libraris?” which we feel most if not all residents would say yes to, the council asks:

6. How important are the following activities to you?”

Browsing and borrowing books from the library on my own

Browsing and borrowing books from the library with help from staff

Browsing and borrowing online resources (e.g. eBooks) from the library on my own

Browsing and borrowing online (e.g. eBooks) from the library with help from staff


7. How important are the following?

Accessing computers in the library on my own

Accessing computers in the library with help from staffSo peoplw

Library staff in Lewisham (and everywhere) do far more than just assist with borrowing books and accessing computers – they give advice, discussion, social access, information, help with filling in job and benefit applications and other admin, assistance, supervision, activities, and many other things. We are very concerned at the reduction of what the library staff do to “accessing computers” and helping browse and borrow. Many people may complete these questions not realising what it seems it is actually asking is ‘do you want library workers in the library or not.’

And those library users who do need assistance or help in the library may not even be able to access this online form to fill it in and most people who use the internet in the library don’t have the internet at home so how are they going to be consulted?

There will be serious implications for Lewisham residents if the council moves to staffless self service at any time in the 4 Libraries it still runs, Lewisham has been relying on volunteer run “community” libraries to provide some sort of service in 8 of the borough’s libraries but because of Covid recruiting volunteers for a front line service is very difficult, Blackheath Village Library is re-opening for only for 8 hours a week, due to lack of volunteers. Lewisham should not be cutting council run libraries, staffing and staffed hours at a time while the community/volunteer model is struggling and reducing the service they provide.

At a time when we need investment in our community resources to support our residents, children and families in recovering from the effects of the pandemic, slashing library staff is not going to help (and in a year where Lewisham is going to be Borough of Culture)

As the council will not ask you if you want trained and experienced library staff whenever you visit a library and who will be there when you need them we recommend that Lewisham residents and library users answer questions 6 and 7 to say that you want help from staff with borrowing books, using online services and borrowing ebooks and with accessing computers. Library staff can help you with much more than this but if we don’t say we need this help then for much of the time staff will not be there and a library in Lewisham will just be a building with some books, some PCs and a security guard.

Saturday 27 February 2021

Our press release in response to threatened Lewisham library cuts.

Save Lewisham Libraries statement - 18th February 2021


Lewisham’s plan to cut up to £500,000 from the library service budget is very bad news for people in Lewisham.

After lockdown more people than ever will need access to Lewisham Public Libraries for resources,

literature, children’s books, computers, wifi, and the help library staff give them accessing library services, benefits, business loans, debt and housing advice - issues people will be struggling to cope with due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lewisham council is proposing that staffing in libraries be slashed by up to £500,000 (1, 2, & 3). In a crisis in which library workers have been designated as key workers,Lewisham residents should be asking what effects these proposed job cuts will have on opening hours,safety and access to our libraries.

These staffing cuts are likely to hit the poorest and most vulnerable groups hardest by falling on

Lewisham, Deptford, Catford and Downham libraries (the rest of Lewisham’s libraries are volunteer run as the council offloaded responsibility for staffing them in 2011 and 2016).

Lewisham residents will be asking if these proposed cuts are a reheat of the disastrous £450,000 budget

cut proposal 2018 that would have seen all staff cut from Downham and Deptford libraries, making the libraries self-service, or a severe reduction in staffed hours across Downham, Deptford and Lewisham libraries.

After protests, the 2018 plans were rejected by the council’s own committee, because vulnerable

people and protected groups would have been disproportionately affected in every option of the cut put forward (4).

How will cuts of an even greater amount, result in what one councillor describes as a “new and greater

service in terms of outreach and inclusivity” (5)? Lewisham councillors say they want libraries to be community hubs, support digital inclusion and give advice and support; but with libraries already doing this, it is difficult to see how drastically cutting library workers’ jobs and the library budget will help deliver these aims. Despite the disproportionate harm COVID-19 has had on particular communities in the borough in terms of age, ethnicity, gender, and deprivation, it is these groups who are already dealing with pre-existing inequalities that these proposed cuts will likely affect.

The only “non-traditional” model Lewisham has consistently been interested in, is in replacing

paid council workers with volunteers.

It would be patronising to the public to suggest that a new model could offer “non-traditional” services

such as help with IT skills when libraries have always offered this, all the more effectively when provided by trained professionals in properly funded models. If by saying that “libraries will accommodate a range of staff who have not traditionally worked in libraries” (5), the council means to propose to use library space for other council workers to do their jobs and use them as indirect supervisors for the space, then this could be setting up self-service, staff-less libraries by stealth, potentially resulting in even more volunteer-run libraries.

Lewisham residents deserve a properly funded service run by paid professional library workers.

What they don’t deserve is the managed decline of a hollowed out library service and loss of trained staff, disguised as ‘innovation’ and ‘transformation’.

If Lewisham council are serious about these things then discussion needs to be about long term

investment and in depth consultation, which doesn’t just get wheeled out when budget cuts are on the table. Lewisham council has said that they will review the service and engage residents and library users soon, but they are running out of time for any meaningful public consultation.

The timetable for decisions on these proposals says that public consultation will be completed  by March 2021 but that staff reorganisation will then begin in April 2021, with restructuring completed by August 2021.

For library users, staff and unions to have any real impact on the formative stages of this plan - a say in

the future of their jobs and services, and not to just be part of a box ticking exercise - then wide ranging consultation, including equalities impact assessments, need to begin urgently.

The definition of a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service, which councils have a legal duty

to provide, continues to be stretched and tested in Lewisham.

Currently the council only funds staffing in 4 out of 13 libraries in the borough. What do Lewisham

residents envision, want, and deserve: a minimum, staffless, cut to the bone "service"; or professionally staffed, properly funded, well maintained and fully open libraries that fully meet residents’ current and future needs?

We believe that Lewisham’s libraries must be kept fully staffed, fully open, and that cuts must be resisted.

Libraries are vital to recovery after COVID-19 but the proposed cuts seem to go against the council’s

own principles for this recovery, “which will be at the heart of all decision-making, planning and actions”, of “tackling widening social, economic and health inequalities” and “protecting and empowering our most vulnerable residents”(6). Instead of library cuts and inflicting a total of £40 million cuts, Lewisham council should stand with people in Lewisham to demand more resources not less to help us through this disaster, and protect their residents’ jobs and vital services.

Please support your libraries, sign our petition, email your councillor, email your MP, raise it in

your ward meetings, raise it with your union and join our campaign to save our libraries and services.

Follow us on Facebook: @SaveLewishamLibraries


(1) News Shopper. “​Lewisham libraries could be cut by £500K”​. 13th January 2021.

(2) Lewisham Council. Scrutiny Committees Report: “Budget Cuts Report”. January 2021. round%20budget%20cuts%20Jan%202021.pdf

(3) Lewisham Council. “Cuts proposal template 2021/22”. January 2021. round%20budget%20cuts%20Jan%202021%20Appendix%202.pdf

(4) Save Lewisham Libraries. “​The Unfeasible Study Rumbled! Demand better and take action”. 8th April 2019.

(5) News Shopper. “​Lewisham libraries could offer more services after remodel”​. 15th January 2021.

(6) Lewisham Council. Mayor and Cabinet Report: “Budget Cuts Report”. 3rd February 2021.


Friday 19 July 2019

Bromley Libraries strike update, picket at the Central Library

A representative from the Save Lewisham Libraries Campaign joined striking Bromley library workers again today, this time outside of Bromley Central Library, as their dispute with Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) continues. The strike began on the 6th of June to protest against cuts being made to the Library Service. Many of the comments made by those standing outside of the library echo what members of the Lewisham campaign have been saying about libraries in our borough. That libraries are so much more than buildings containing books. One staff member stated that she had seen children grow up over her time at Bromley libraries, that those who used the libraries are a microcosm of society, that they were part of the library community and that ‘They are our friends’. Another went on the state that trying to run a library on so few staff meant that ’it’s going to grind to a halt; there are not enough staff to allow us to do our jobs properly’.  Workers and campaigners in Bromley have kept up an incredible fight for their precious libraries as councils all across London and the country have taken the axe to this vital and much loved service. We all need to do what we can to support their fight

Great public support for libraries and the strikers at Bromley Council meeting on 15th July

 To make a donation:

Cheques can be made payable to Bromley Unite. please send cheques and messages of support to 

Onay Kasab, Unite, 33-37 Moreland Street, EC1V 8BB

Bank details for donations are

Bromley Unite LE/531 Branch
Number 20272821
Sort 60 83 01

Monday 8 July 2019

Inspiring library protest and picket outside Beckenham library today joined by local MP

Members of the Save Lewisham Libraries Campaign today joined a picket line outside of Beckenham Library in support of Bromley library workers. They have been out on indefinite strike since the 6th June in protest against cuts being made to the library service by Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) who run libraries on behalf of Bromley Council. To win the contract, GLL promised Bromley Council that they would make cuts and that they would do this by not recruiting staff as posts became vacant. Following strike action last year GLL committed to filling vacant posts, but have decided to go against this agreement. GLL have also refused to pay staff what they would have received had they remained Bromley employees. The strikers and their supporters, who numbered around fifty, were also joined by Ellie Reeves, MP for Lewisham West and Penge. Many signatures were collected, with many library users and passers by having already signed. Songs were sung, flags were waved and car horns were tooted in support. As the strikers leaflet stated, 'Our Libraries, Our Services'. Act now to support this important campaign. Sign the petition at 

Kathy Smith from Bromley Unite on the Bromley library strike and how you can help

Bromley library workers are out on indefinite strike since 6 June against cuts and recruitment freezes at Bromley's  Greenwich Leisure Limited run libraries.

Kathy Smith, Bromley Unite branch secretary, outside GLL run Charton Lido with the Bromley library strikers, talking about what their dispute and how we can help.

To make a donation:

Cheques can be made payable to Bromley Unite and sent to 

Onay Kasab, Unite, 33-37 Moreland Street, EC1V 8BB

or bank details for donations are

Bromley Unite LE/531 Branch
Number 20272821
Sort 60 83 01

Sunday 23 June 2019

Latest News!

June 2019

Thanks to everyone who came along to our stall this weekend. It was lovely to chat to so many people and hear what you think about the library service.

In case you couldn't get along the text of our latest leaflet is below.

Our next meeting will be on the 4th July at 7.15, venue TBC.

The feasibility study into new plans for Lewisham Library has been finished. The proposals they looked at were all found to be unfeasible and so for now the only action they will take is to maintain the current building. The proposed cut has now come out of the council’s reserve funds but this is only temporary.

Over the last decade, Lewisham borough has lost 9 out of 13 council-run libraries. These 9 libraries were handed over to outside organisations, with no professional library staff, just untrained volunteers. Since then, there has been a dramatic fall of 45% in book borrowing in the borough. 
Successive cuts have left many libraries in Lewisham with poor quality, disorganised book stock and an unskilled, voluntary workforce. 

10% of the population don’t have internet access at home. Many essential services are only accessible online, making digital services provided by the library absolutely essential for Universal Credit claims, rent payments, online banking, security checks, booking travel and communication with loved ones. Many vulnerable users need assistance from library staff to fulfil job and benefit requirements. And to fulfil the promise of a sanctuary borough, the council must consider that EU Settlement, Visa, Permanent Residence and Asylum applicants may need staffed libraries to assist them.

Quiet study spaces and research materials are also essential for low income households. The last published plans for cuts were rejected by council’s own committee as disproportionately effecting vulnerable people. Our campaign will oppose any cuts that hit the most disadvantaged in society.

Many experienced library staff have been made redundant - 55 library workers in 2016 alone. Cutting Lewisham jobs at a time of austerity is bad for the borough. Replacing paid council staff with untrained volunteers managed by unaccountable organisations has been a disaster as predicted. 

Maintain current staff levels in Lewisham Library, Downham Library and Deptford Lounge Consult: Library workers, users and campaigners should be consulted in the formative stages of planning a new library for Lewisham.
Be transparent: Council should be clear and open about any future plans or cuts to the service.
Bring our libraries back in house: All controlled library services should be brought back in house with adequate, safe staffing levels.

The campaign needs you! We meet regularly to discuss and plan actions. Contact with any ideas or ways you can help, and to be added to the mailing list to receive information about forthcoming meetings, events and actions.

Raise awareness of the value of good quality libraries: Tell us why you value the service, or use your own social media with the hashtag #savelewishamlibraries

Send a letter forwarding your concerns and our demands to your own electoral ward’s councillors and your constituency Member of Parliament, using Be sure to mention you are a resident. 

Email Councillor Jonathan Slater, who is responsible for Libraries, (cllr_jonathan. and Lewisham Mayor Damien Egan (damien.egan@ 


Friday 3 May 2019

The Library: An oasis for me and my daughter

As the parent of a child with special educational needs (SEN), libraries have proved to be my salvation over the years. I know where they all are throughout London, from the local library in Lewisham, Charing Cross library in the heart of the city, the Saison Poetry Library and onto the British Library. In a large, busy and sometimes frightening city, they are oases of calm where my daughter can find refuge. They are places where she can go to engage in her favourite pastime, reading. As a one income household with rent and bills to pay, I can keep her supplied with a never-ending stream of wonderful books that I could never afford to buy. I’ll never forget her face when she was ploughing through the history books on the open shelves in the reference section of Lewisham Library, cross referencing dates and names, completely engrossed; her reaction to the language of Dickens upon reading the first paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities, her wide eyes and her ‘wow’ as she gazed at me in awe and joy. These are occurrences that I could never have experienced without my local library.

When you are a parent or carer of a child with SEN/disabilities, you can feel very isolated. Even as a member of a support group or Facebook group, for many people social interactions with other adults, other than health or education professionals, can be minimal. For me, in times past, there were many days when the only adult conversation I had during the day was with library staff. A smile and a brief chat can help you remember who you are and what you care about. I know that I am not alone. 

Recently, on a trip to the opticians, my daughter had a complete meltdown. I stood while tears and snot and shouting happened. These events can leave you feeling drained and helpless. Once she had calmed down she elected to go to the library, a place where she feels safe and secure and where she can read, her mechanism to help her cope with life. I walked in and was greeted by a smiling face of a lovely librarian who knows both of us. She had been thinking of us as she had recently checked in a book that she thought my daughter would enjoy. Suddenly, the world felt a much better place. It may have been a small event for the librarian, but it was life affirming for me.

Libraries are so much more than buildings that are filled with books. They are a community, a social service, a place where we and our children can grow and learn about the world and our place in it. They are a part of who we are and how we live life. I can safely say they are essential for my sanity!