Worrying signs of neglect in Croydon’s under-threat libraries

Croydon’s public libraries are under-staffed, under-stocked and being deliberately run-down ahead of privatisation. And few library users are even aware of what is going on.

That’s the stark assessment of a professional library worker and campaigner following a visit to three of the borough’s 13 libraries which are now part of an expensive competitive tendering process that is expected to be completed next month.

Alan Wylie visited Broad Green, Thornton Heath and Croydon’s Central library and found a consistent pattern of empty shelves, unsorted books, switched off computer stations and long queues of users. His conclusion is that there has been a deliberate policy by the council to run-down the offering of the libraries ahead of handing them over to a commercial concern.

Yet according to Wylie, few of the library users he encountered on his visit were even aware that Croydon is looking to farm out its public library service, something for which the Tory-run council has never obtained any form of mandate.

In November 2010, Croydon Council ran a consultation in which the public overwhelmingly rejected proposals to close six of the borough’s branch libraries. As Inside Croydon discovered, despite receiving thousands of responses, not a single one called for privatisation, or out-sourcing, of the public library service.

Yet the Conservative group in control of the council has tried to use the consultation – which rejected closures and did not call for outsourcing – to justify its dogmatic policy of privatisation.

“In all three libraries we spoke with users,” Wylie reports.

“Most were aware that there had been a consultation but they understand the outcome of it was that the libraries were saved and some were not even aware a conclusion to the consultation had been announced.

“None we spoke to however were aware of Croydon’s decision to outsource the whole network and most found this very concerning,” Wylie writes on his website.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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2 Responses to Worrying signs of neglect in Croydon’s under-threat libraries

  1. Over the last 5 years I have been into many libraries (both Central and local) around the country in connection with historical research and attending talks. I have not seen any as run down as Norbury.

    Its shelves are being stripped bare. Is it being set up for closure and being sold off so that the successful library tender bidder will not have to try to turn it around and invest in making the upper floor useable?

  2. I can assure you as a local library campaigner that Norbury Library is not alone. This hollowing out of services has been carried out across the board. The strange thing is that the Norbury community were so vocal before but few seem concerned any longer. Are they unaware of what is going on or perhaps just accepted that their library will be privatised and they can do nothing about it?

    The Save Croydon Libraries Campaign, of which I am part, continues to collect information on all our libraries and fight for them. You can follow us at http://soslibrary.blogspot.co.uk/ on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/savecroydonlibraries/ and Twitter at @SaveCroydonLibs and @SaveSanderstead

    Thanks to Inside Croydon for publicising what is really going on in our libraries. We must keep up the fight!

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