Friday, 14 April 2017

Shocking Book Lending Stats for Lewisham Libraries

Lewisham Library statistics for attendance and book issues have just been released in response to a request to Rob Wilson, Minister for Libraries. These statistics show that book lending in Lewisham has decreased by a shocking 45%! 

2009/10 figures are important in that they show the library stats before any of Lewisham libraries were handed over to voluntary organisations and businesses to run.

These statistics demonstrate very clearly that volunteers cannot deliver the same professional, proactive and knowledgeable service as trained library professionals to library users, resulting in this dramatic drop in book issues.

2015/16 Visits:    2,078,294
              Issues:     635,063

2014/15 Visits:    2,081,986
              Issues:     770,898

2009/10 Visits:    2,028,350
              Issues:  1,146,461

It is the young people of this borough who are being let down most. Research has shown that there is a direct correlation between reading for leisure and academic achievement in young people, so with this drop in professional library staff and book issues, is it any surprise that Lewisham does relatively poorly on education indicators. 44% of 19 year olds have no qualifications, the third highest of any London borough. 63% of pupils receiving free school meals do not get five good GCSEs (5 A*-C grades, including English and Maths), compared to a London average of 54%.

We believe the Mayor and Lewisham Council have badly misled the public in presenting the alternative 'community library' system as being as efficient and comprehensive as the council-run library service.  These statistics are a stark reminder of what we have lost. We must guard against any further downgrade in our public library services!


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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.