Thursday, 29 October 2015

New Cross Learning are short of volunteers

New Cross Learning are desperately short of volunteers, and at risk of reducing opening hours. Please support them by volunteering if you can, while opposing the plans to put more libraries at risk.

Please sign our Petition

Monday, 26 October 2015

Community Library use drops by up to 90%

Some excellent analysis here by the Forest Hill Society, showing that use of the community libraries has dropped by 60-90% since they have been run by volunteers, a fact that the Council are frantically trying to hide or ignore

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Reading between the lines of the consultation

Handy Guide to Libraries Consultation

For quick answer suggestions please go to 'Questions'


This section blurs the distinction between staffed and community services to favour the council’s proposal.

The outreach team mentioned in paragraph three supporting the volunteer libraries is formed of four people (this is the peripatetic service referred to in consultation meetings). Staff are spread so thin it is very unlikely a member of the public would meet them in a community library. It is then to be questioned how well integrated the service in fact is.

Behind rather than beyond traditional services, library users cannot pay fines or charges in community libraries, make use of much of the online subscriptions, pay parking permits or use registrar services, i.e do much what the council’s document suggests. What they are not telling you is that these things require professional staff.

Online services provision

This section highlights the importance of a secure face-to-face relationship between public and staff.

There is no doubt that there are experienced volunteers in Lewisham, but their services are already in great demand. We believe it is through the cohesive experience of front-line council staff, brought together through many years’ service, that libraries can best support access to online services.

This section raises the question of the need for training in maintaining the service’s ability to expand the digital presence, something a community library would have to consider.

Sustaining quality and reach for a growing population

This section is highly suspicious!

It suggests a library service has been extended to more venues, when the reality is that five former council libraries are now community run and book issues in these venues have fallen by up to 90%. The new development of a library presence in Ladywell with the backing of private developers when they are about to lose their own is sure to cause alarm.

Budget Pressures

It was suggested by journalist Lucy Mangan at the meeting at Sandhurst School on Oct 22nd that the council use some of its financial reserves to support its services in crisis, which by referring to council documents she put at possibly £1bn. This assertion was challenged by Aileen Buckton and she was not aware of the actual figure.

Possible options:
(page 6)

  • Outsource the library service
  • Reduce opening hours and/or close libraries
  • Extend the Lewisham community library model (preferred option by council officers)

In reality, the only proposal with Mayoral approval for consultation is the “Lewisham community library model”. The other two suggestions are red herrings and divert from the real options open for consideration:

Cut staff from four libraries thriving in difficult circumstances



(Page 9)

To what extent do you agree or disagree that changes to the Council’s public library service are necessary?

 Strongly disagree

Which of the following is your preferred option for changes to the library service?
  • Outsourcing not an option approved for consultation
  • Reduced opening hours and closing libraries not an option approved for consultation
  • Extend Lewisham community model – I.e. staff redundancies; a reduced, precarious service; 70 – 90% drop in book issues
  • Other…please specify below

Things you could say: 

  • Cuts to libraries will increase vulnerability among the most vulnerable in our community
  • Libraries are 42.1% more popular than they were ten years ago
  • Skilled and experienced staff with whom the council have made great investments will be made redundant.
  • Buildings the council has made spent a lot of money on will be given over to small groups.
  • Lewisham is already a deprived borough with an identified educational and literacy need.
  • Libraries are great value for money, supporting literacy and free public space
  • Libraries are essential parts of a democratic system, providing learning and knowledge free for all. 
  •  Libraries stand for independence for all
  •  Are your elected Mayor and Councillors going to support libraries? If they don't, what does that do to the system?
  •  No Cuts to Libraries!

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Public Consultation tonight

The fourth public consultation meeting is tonight at 7.30pm at Sandhurst Junior School, MinardRoad, Catford SE6 1NW

Please come and show your support if you can

Monday, 19 October 2015

Public Consultation tonight

The third public consultation meeting is tonight at 7.30pm at Sydenham School, DartmouthRoad SE26 4RD

Please come and show your support if you can

Saturday, 17 October 2015

What's the plan for Catford Libary?

This is an excellent question. 

The public document states that the ground floor of Catford will be redesigned and staffed by exisiting staff on the ground floor of Laurence House. We feel this is an even worse idea then community libraries and is equivalent to saying that all staff will be removed. Laurence House staff don't have any free time to administer the library, and will lack enthusiasm for having this added to their job descriptions.

Please fill in the consultation and oppose these plans

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Update on Mondays Public Consultation meeting

Chaired by Head of Library Services Antonio Rizzo, Head of Community Services Aileen Buckton and with Cllr Chris Best, the audience was disappointed again and again when pressing the panel for information upon which they could base a decision.

There were complaints about the timescale and the lack of printed consultation documents.

One gentleman pointed out ‘the essence of the library is in the written word’. The council is not providing this for the public in the form of a printed information pack. Still, as before, aside from those who visit the council homepage or wander into a library there is no publicity. It was then agreed by panel members more should have been done – two meetings in to this six-week process.

But the main shock of the evening would have been to staff present, who heard several times from Aileen Buckton, and with the assurances of our Head of Service Antonio Rizzo, that community libraries offer a better service than that of their own colleagues seated in the room.

This betrayal cuts deep but there was public support in the room, with several highlighting the loss of intellectual capital through redundancies and one making the point that regardless of £3m, library staff are priceless. Perhaps he had seen Catford library described by TimeOut as “the most helpful librarians I’ve ever met”.

We now need to shout the message loud and clear that community libraries do not and cannot offer an equal service to staff in Lewisham. The accounts from the panel do not accord with our daily experience and the benevolence of those volunteers staffing community libraries is being used to enact cuts we can be sure they do not favour.

Aside from growing union membership there is a growing campaign on Twitter (@SaveLewLibs) and we have enquiries from the press - please encourage the public, friends and family to bombard them with messages of support and concern about these proposals.

Has the decision already been made?

Has anyone else noticed that the public consultations are limited to those libraries proposed to be handed to volunteers. 
As this is currently a proposal which will affect the whole borough, we are pressuring management to hold more consultations, one near each and every library.
We are also concerned that it seems as if the decision has already been made, as no account is being given towards the rest of the borough if the preferred option is not accepted.

Please contact library management or the council and state the same

Please sign our Petition

Friday, 9 October 2015

Sydenham Library will close tomorrow due to a lack of volunteers!!!!

It seems that Sydenham library will be closed tomorrow from 1-5pm due to a lack of volunteers. 

This is a ominous foreshadowing of the future for all of the community libraries, especially once there is more demand placed on volunteers,

Please sign our petition and let Lewisham Council know that you are not happy for them to cut from the library budget

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Sunday, 4 October 2015

First Public Consultation meeting - Wednesday 7th October

The first public consultation meeting is on Wednesday 7th October, 7.30pm at the Broadway Theatre in Catford.

Please come along and show your support for libraries if you can

Please sign our Petition

Thursday, 1 October 2015


Unison, is campaigning to save our libraries. The Council is considering handing the running of libraries over to volunteers.
We believe that its important that libraries remain staffed by trained, professional staff.

What's wrong with volunteers?
Unison has no problem with people volunteering. We do have a problem when local authorities replace paid, professional staff with volunteers.
Unison does not believe that volunteers can satisfactorily run a library.

* Volunteers can be unreliable. If enough volunteers can’t be found, then libraries will reduce their opening hours or close.
*  Volunteers lack training and specialist skills, Unison believes they can’t adequately:
  -   Protect the library and it’s users from abusive or disruptive customers.
  -   Keep user information confidential
  -   Understand safeguarding issues around children and the elderly
  -   Direct people who need urgent help to other agencies
  -   Manage and maintain the building
* There are clear safeguarding issues. Volunteers have access to sensitive information and areas where young and vulnerable users may be unsupervised by parents.
*  The council has transferred many services online. Library staff are called on to help access these services. This requires confidential information being shared with staff. 
Will people feel confident giving this information to volunteers?
*  Volunteers are not able to take payments, meaning users will have to travel long distances in order to pay monies owed to the library. 

What are the risks?
*  Any library run by volunteers will close if enough volunteers can’t be found:
Sydenham, Crofton Park and Grove Park library nearly closed earlier this year, as the holder of the tenders wished to return it.
New Cross Learning is currently displaying posters, threatening closure if more volunteers can’t be found.
Pepys Resource Centre regularly closes when enough volunteers can’t be found.
*  Once libraries are transferred to volunteers, they will never return to Council control.
*  The community libraries are already struggling to pay their bills. Sydenham was not able to provide heating over last winter as funding was not available.
*  5 of 6 existing community libraries have at least one member of paid staff, relying on donations and grant funding.
*  Use of the existing community libraries has dropped by over 50% since they have been run by volunteers, a clear indication of public dissatisfaction.

What can I do?
The Council is due to vote on the 9th December 2015. Before then you should:
*  Contact your local councillor
*  Fill in the library consultation 
*  Join us in protesting the proposed cuts

Can we change anything?
In Staffordshire, the mass opposition means that the Council will not now be handing all 24 sites to volunteers.

The Save Lewisham Hospital campaign successfully overturned the decision to close the A&E department.

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.