Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Significant Reduction to Manor House Library Opening Hours

Last week, many fantastic librarians and library assistants left the library service due to service restructure and redundancies. The campaign would like to thank them for their years of dedicated service to our communities and wish them well in the future.

This week marks the transition of more Lewisham's libraries over to the community model, leaving only three libraries run by the Council.

There are still many uncertainties – after a year of planning by the Council.  Users and Friends of Manor House note that opening hours have been significantly reduced and are still in the dark regarding its future.

"There was some confusion amongst users about what exactly was happening and what exactly they could expect and how they would manage their own services.
We have 2 e-mails on the hook with council staff, with no answers, and we all need to know who is now responsible for the building at the council, now that the library service has abandoned ship.
It was incumbent on that service, while still in charge, to have made clear what the future offer would be, in advance of abandonment.  Instead the staff present on Saturday and Sunday were doing their best to fill the gaps by providing changes to official noticeboards, gates etc.
The Lewisham council website did not seem to have an advance message of these changes on its library pages.  Even today the opening hours shown are the former hours."



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Restore Our Library Service

Lewisham's libraries are a well loved and much used service, especially depended on by children.

It is upsetting then, that our libraries have been put through the wringer, and to show for it, issue numbers have fallen more than almost anywhere else in the country in the last five years. Lewisham Council has executed on its misbeggoten decision to cut £1 million from the budget, making most staff redundant whilst outsourcing operations to social enterprises and charities on decades long leases and contracts. And disgustingly, council advances this as an innovative 'opportunity'. It has also been pushing the money under the rug, as outsourced groups who run into cash flow problems are given large council grants, and this is now par for the course.

The Council removed staff from 4 of our libraries in 2016:

Catford, Forest Hill, Manor House and Torridon Road.

Despite the massive public opposition and the first council staff strikes here in decades, they pushed the changes through. This is not forgotten or over. This must be rectified.

Unison was right to believe that the implementation of the scheme would mean:

  • Professional staff will not be available in these libraries
  • Opening times will be reduced
  • If there are not enough volunteers, then libraries will close
  • Library usage and services to the community will be reduced
  • Vulnerable users won’t be able to access library services

They can no longer rightly be called libraries but pale imitations, community centres, thinly veiled property development operations that make a show of meeting a few basic library service functions and relying on volunteers. They stretch the remaining council staff dangerously thin, perhaps popping in to Pepys library once a week to mourn the chaos. Having made these idiotic redundancies so drastically management have had to take on agency staff. They've even trained up at cost new staff, who have handed in their resignation finding the conditions intolerable.

It has left us left three "hub" libraries still very basically council staffed, Lewisham, Deptford Lounge and Downham. Catford often has nobody but the security guards that work in the building, you can't print and can never expect to be able to print, and it is unsafe and unreliable.

In a borough this size it no longer meets our statutory right to a local, accessible, convenient library service.

These hub libraries are under threat of more unsubtle restructures by Bullock and head of the service Anthonio 'they changed my title so I'd have no chance of being sued' Rizzo. We campaign by all our legitimate means, from our right to public assembly, to arguing in surgeries and consultations, to looking into the published books of tender candidates to see what the council turns a blind eye to.

We have perhaps decreased the damange and slowed it down, but council generally has its head in the sand, and the tory government that goes without saying.

In this misinformation, privatisation age libraries are for their users desperately important.

Save Lewisham Libraries urges you to FIGHT FOR LIBRARIES!

Please sign our petition, come to our meetings and developing protests and get involved.