Library staff in walk-out as shelves are stripped of books

Council staff in Lambeth libraries walked out today in protest at plans to close five of that borough’s 10 public libraries, turning some of them into “bookish gyms”, and threatening the future of Upper Norwood Library, which has been run jointly by Croydon Council for more than a century.

library sign upper norwoodThe controversial library closures scheme was called in for scrutiny at Labour-run Lambeth Council last week, and after a heated meeting scraped through by a single councillor’s vote.

Today, UNISON, the public servants’ trades union staged a walk-out after hearing that staff at Upper Norwood have been asked to look at removing books.

“We are worried that process is being ignored,” a union source told Inside Croydon. “Lambeth are making it up on the hoof, and we are running out of time to save our libraries.”

Upper Norwood Library is staffed by around half-a-dozen, mainly part-time staff, and has been open on reduced hours for three years, after a previous funding cut instigated by Croydon’s then Tory-run council. Although located within the borough of Lambeth, the Upper Norwood Library serves 19,000 Croydon residents in Upper and South Norwood.

Lambeth’s proposals for libraries include handing over Upper Norwood Library to an independent trust and leaving it to be run by volunteers and amateurs.

“This is a chance for Croydon’s Labour Council, working with their MP, Steve Reed, to play the white knight in all this and find a solution for Upper Norwood Library,” said the source.

Ahead of another Lambeth Council meeting, this time being staged this evening at Elmgreen School in Tulse Hill,UNISON issued a statement: “The libraries will be closed today as staff have walked out to try and stop our libraries closing forever.

“We have been forced into this protest, as council management are pushing through with proposals and refusing to look at alternatives despite questions and challenges from Lambeth’s Scrutiny Committee and the government’s Department for Culture Media and Sport.”

Robert Gibson, of the Save Upper Norwood Library Campaign, said, “We call on Croydon and Lambeth representatives to come together and sort out an equitable settlement for the Upper Norwood Library. Crystal Palace needs a town centre library.

“Lambeth and Croydon need to work together the community of Crystal Palace will play its part but we can’t have a library with no professional staff. We know cuts have to be made and we can play our part in delivering savings. But work with us, don’t impose a set of proposals which are abhorrent to the community.”

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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
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2 Responses to Library staff in walk-out as shelves are stripped of books

  1. Lewis White says:

    I have to say, that I write poetry but seldom use the local Library, as I own hundreds of books, but when I do, I realise that lots of people go there to study, as well as take out books. Study is good!

    We need to remember, Hitler loved a nice bonfire … of books.

    If you think about it, books contain Wisdom. Their fragile leaves remain separate and openable for hundreds of years.

    Digital media will suffer from the Altzheimers of diminishing magnetism over decades, and the knowledge stored thereon will be gone, so BOOKS ARE NECESSARY, to SURVIVAL OF CULTURE and KNOWLEDGE.

    I support the use of volunteers, but they should be the cherry on the cake, not the cake.

    It’s a bit weird, isn’t it, that nearby Southwark Council has invested millions of £s in its flagship Canada Water and Peckham Libraries, and in local Libraries too, such as Dulwich and Nunhead.

    If Labour-run Southwark can do this, why can’t Lambeth???

    Well done , Lambeth Library Staff.

    Shame on you Lambeth Council !!!

  2. I Geary says:

    A few thoughts:

    – does Crystal Palace “really” need a town centre library? Whilst nearby Anerley library has closed, there are several libraries pretty close by: Norwood, South Norwood, West Norwood and Penge all surround Upper Norwood. I don’t think the residents of South London can feel too hard done to when it comes to accessing libraries. I would replace the word “need” with “quite like”.

    – Is losing a small-ish library really “abhorrent”? What would you call vulnerable adults being left unsupported in their homes? What would you call a child at risk of voilence or harm not being assessed in time to be re-homed before they were injurred? What about an outbreak of food poisioning killing people because the inspection regime was not kept in place, or a highway structure failing because repairs had been scaled back? These things would be abhorrent. Losing a branch library whilst there are other branch libraries not that far away is an inconvenience at best, at worst a slightly sad sign that the public sector cannot keep up the level of spend it (briefly) got used to. The contact urgently needs to get a sense of proportion I think.

    – To the above comment: digital media is not all magnetic – CD roms for example are optical. Stirring prose I’m sure, but maybe keep the poetry for your own scrap book.

    – Also, are you seriously comparing the moves to keep spending under control to Hilter’s Nazi pary destroying books? Really? I think that’s just a complete over-reaction.

    – I would suggest everyone who genuinely uses the UNL to write in and volunteer to pay an extra 0.5% council tax a year, which should easily raise the couple of hundred grand to employ a team of “professional” librarians. The ex-chief librarian was costing something like £50k pa, and the others will be around £25k-£40k with on costs fte.

    – A council being run by a particular party doesn’t really influence the funding they get. They all have to make decisions on what services are priorities, and what are just “nice to haves”. Often, cuts to the “nice to haves” can mobilise the literate, wealthy upper middle class lefty set, or pensioners (both a formidable political force to the reds / blues respectively), yet cuts to the really vital services, or the preventative stuff just goes completely under the radar, because the families being abused, or the low earners stuck in squalid rented accomodation, or the elderly suffering at home can’t organise a fancy photo shoot with famous politicians, or mobilise fancy PR campaigns or write eloquent blogs.

    Hey ho. In not to many years time, sheer demand for adult social care will have broken most Council’s budgets anyway, and arguments about closing this or that branch library will be a dim and distant memory. It will be comparable to the days when the Royal Navy used to be concerned whether it had the most battleships afloat at any one time.

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