Cut-backs in council budgets have already seen Lambeth close two and turn one of its precious public libraries into a “bookish gym” (© Inside Croydon).
Now, in an effort to “sweat its assets”, a library hitherto jointly run by Lambeth and Croydon has applied to become a boozy book store.
Upper Norwood Library, on Westow Hill, has submitted an application for a licence to serve alcohol, largely with a view to begin to stage events, comedy nights and concerts in its upstairs space, particularly around the Crystal Palace Festival this June.
“The trustees have already added the superfluous word ‘hub’ at the end of the library sign outside,” one unimpressed library user said today. “Maybe they can do a paint job on the ‘H’ and turn it into a ‘P’?”
It is not as if the increasingly trendy streets around the Triangle do not already have a broad choice of boozers, with hipster pub operators Antic soon opening a second outlet just up the road from their Walker Briggs.
But the trust which is taking on the running of the library from the neighbouring councils is looking ahead to finding ways of paying for the core operation of loaning books. The large upstairs space could be utilised as a studio theatre and for jazz and comedy club nights.
“We decided to go for an annual licence because it will enable us to put on films or other events and offer a licensed bar,” a spokesperson for the trustees told the News from Crystal Palace site.
“We’ve gone in for a full range of options because if you want to add anything retrospectively it becomes more complicated.”
The library building has recently undergone a full refurbishment to its roof and internally, paid for by Croydon and Lambeth councils in anticipation of the trust signing a lease for the premises.
A Katharine Street source told Inside Croydon today, “The building has to pay for itself, so now it’s important they drive income into the building to support the library offer on ground floor.
“Even on the ground floor it’s a big library for a local area with other libraries at West and South Norwood.”
The source said that if the library had continued to be run from the Town Halls, it was doubtful whether the building’s other floors would be used, as has been the case for some time at Croydon-run Norbury Library.
“They basically have a three-year funding deal that means they can make a success of it.”
While the majority of Croydon’s libraries have endured the experience of being outsourced to Carillion, the massive company which collapsed earlier this year, and now have been taken back in-house by the council, Upper Norwood, with its century-long arrangement across the two boroughs, was never included in that damaging deal.
Instead, it has been squeezed by a gradual decline in the resources that one, or other, council was able or prepared to make available to it. Although the library re-opened last July after its refurbishment, its future remains uncertain simply because there are few libraries which have previously been run by community trusts, and according to a source at Croydon Town Hall, nine months on, the lease on the building remains unsigned by the trustees.
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