Library plan can save service, say supporters

In demand: Opening time at Brixton library as the queue goes in
In demand: Opening time at Brixton library as the queue goes in

Friends of Lambeth Libraries have published the much anticipated proposals by Susanna Barnes, the head of Lambeth’s library service, for an alternative approach to its future.

You can download the full document here or see our report.

Lambeth council’s plan to convert three of its ten libraries into gyms with unstaffed book sections has attracted widespread opposition, including critical resolutions at Labour Party ward meetings and a successful ballot for strike action by library staff.

Both plans deal with large cuts to the service necessitated by big reductions in central government funding.

Laura Swaffield of Friends of Lambeth Libraries said the new plan would preserve “a popular, high-performing library service that is bringing national kudos to Lambeth”.

She said that, in two years, Barnes, with full support from staff and residents, had made Lambeth’s under-funded service:

  • The top performer nationally for increased usage
  • Nationally recognised for a wide range of successful new services.

Swaffield said the plan, which is based on a staff-community mutual approach, could achieve the same savings in the short term as the council’s plan and make more in the mid term. It also offered more ways to generate future income and would avoid massive redundancies.

“Above all,” she said, “it has the full support of Lambeth residents and community groups.

“It would enable Lambeth’s libraries to remain – as they are now – a national leader in library development, a source of prestige for the council – and a beacon of co-operative working.