Thursday, 26 May 2011

Tell Lambeth Council what you want from the Durning Library in the future

I've not posted on libraries since Vauxhall Civic Society began a campaign in mid-March to persuade Lambeth Council to provide facts and figures on budgets re. libraries in Lambeth.  Lambeth accidentally turned the Society's general correspondence/questions into a Freedom of Information Request, and Kate Hoey appeared to back the Vauxhall Society's request for information).  However, it transpired that the Council had made an "administrative error" re. the FOI request, and so reclassified their correspondence as a "General Enquiry" which would receive a response by 25th March.  On the 25th March (presumably no longer bound by the more stringent requirements of the FOI request), the Council promised to publish the requested information as part of a "general information hand out" promised for April.  The contents to be released would need to be confirmed at a 4th April meeting with the new Head of Libraries in Lambeth, John Pateman.  Unfortunately, John Pateman was in office for precisely... 1 day... before resigning on account of "a sudden family crisis".  So it must have been quite a surprise for the Vauxhall Society to receive last week (now May!) some of the information they requested.

Unfortunately, I'm not at all clear quite where the information they requested is located...  There are some general documents available at the bottom of "The Facts" page here.  Perhaps that's what's meant.  The Vauxhall Society say that the budget figures have still to go online, so that will be interesting and I await their analysis with interest.  Vauxhall Society have pointed readers to various pages on the Lambeth Council website that mention a new "Libraries Commission".  Lambeth  inform us that they've set up a Libraries Commission to "gather evidence" and "make recommendations" to the Council.  The Commission will be headed by Cllr Nosegbe, cabinet member for Culture, Sport and the Olympic Games. 

In the meantime, the Council note that they have to make "£1.2million of savings from the Cultural Services Division in 2011/12 and... restructure posts across the division".  It doesn't sound promising for the staff in question.  However, Lambeth also state on their website, "the intention... to continue staffing the nine existing libraries with their current opening hours".  One wonders how fewer staff (or perhaps less experienced staff) will continue to provide the same level of service.  It would be possible to cynically conclude that they will be unable to do so, which could result in worse "customer service" (since when are library users customers??), which will provide good reason to actually close a few libraries.  As I say, that would be cynical.  We will await the results of the Commission.

I saw it asserted back in February (in a variety of places) that the Durning Library (our local in SE11) was on a list for potential closure.  The Council denied the speculation was true and quashed the rumour hard, but not prior to it being printed in the South London Press.  The Vauxhall Society noted back in March that Cllr Steve Reed, Leader of Lambeth Council, promised a "review of the options", and it appears the time has come.  I'm slightly unclear why, in light of the promise to keep the nine libraries open for the same hours, a commission is actually needed, but perhaps it's sensible, given the fact that Lambeth's libraries appear to be underused, causing visits per head to be very expensive.

So... time for action.  There will be two "open space sessions" (Saturday 4th June, 10am-1pm, Lambeth Town Hall and Tuesday 14th June, 6:30pm-9:30pm, Lambeth Town Hall) where residents will be able to "design their own working agenda". That should prove very interesting, and is presumably a Co-operative Council working method.

To write to the Commission, giving your views (in case an open space session is not your thing), you can email: .  The consultation closes on 1st July 2011.

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