Library campaigners challenge GLL

Inside the occupation of Carnegie library
Inside the occupation of Carnegie library

Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey and Pastor Lorraine Jones, director of the Dwayne Simpson Foundation, are two prominent local figures to have signed an appeal to GLL, Lambeth council’s leisure provider, to pull out of plans to turn two libraries into “healthy living centres”.

They were joined by the occupiers of one of the two libraries, the Carnegie in Herne Hill who, in a statement, said the silence of GLL, a social enterprise company, was “baffling”.

They said GLL (formerly Greenwich Leisure Limited) prided itself on being an ethical, community-oriented enterprise, but went on: “Yet it seemingly stands to benefit from a plan that deprives vulnerable people of a lifeline, while offering, instead, a gym facility that is not wanted and not needed.”

Laura Swaffield, chair of the Friends of Lambeth Libraries, said: “The council seems to lack all common sense and all shame. It is time to turn the spotlight on to GLL. GLL needs to explain the virtues of a deal that, on the surface, seems very advantageous to GLL and disastrous to Lambeth’s most vulnerable residents.”


Edbrooke statement

In the war of words around Lambeth’s libraries, Cllr Jane Edbrooke, the council’s cabinet member for neighbourhoods and responsible for libraries, said she wanted “to set the record straight” and that the occupied Carnegie library attracted only 2 per cent of library visits in the borough.

She said the Carnegie would re-open in early 2017 as a healthy living centre “with a refurbished neighbourhood library, new computers, the same book stock and study space. It will also be open for longer hours”.

She went on: “There have been thorough discussion with residents and community groups about Lambeth libraries – both in public and at private meetings.

“We understand that people are passionate about this issue. But it’s a simple fact: there is less money to go round, so savings have to be made.”

She said people occupying the Carnegie library were “entitled to voice their concerns”. But she continued: “Who will protest for the children in care and the vulnerable pensioners if the cuts are made to their services instead?

Lambeth council has to find £238million in savings between 2011 and 2018 which equate to half of its core funding.”

In this financial environment, Lambeth’s remaining libraries budget would be concentrated on its “town centre” libraries, which attract 80 per cent of visits. “Carnegie library only attracts 2 per cent of the borough’s library users,” she said.

Cllr Edbrooke went on: “Despite our financial challenge we are one of the few areas of the country that has found a way to maintain a library service in all our current locations.

“It is unfortunate that a small number of people have decided to be obstructive.

“We are proud of the fact that we are able to keep library services open in ten locations across Lambeth.

“Residents in every part of the borough will still have access to dedicated librarians, our extensive stock of books and resources, the Lambeth’s archives and space to work.”



The letter to GLL said: “Where communities have been consulted about this (at Durning and Tate South Lambeth) they rejected the idea of a gym being installed.

“Lambeth has not had the courtesy to consult people living around Carnegie and Minet (the other library, in Myatt’s Fields, to be run by GLL) libraries, but our community is united in its belief that installing a gym at the heart of our beloved library buildings is vandalism and dereliction of duty in the handling of public assets.

“We absolutely oppose handing over the building to a private operator and we reject the offer of unstaffed study and community spaces.

“People living around Minet library in Coldharbour, Vassall and Herne Hill wards suffer some of the most acute deprivation in Britain.

“People who use the libraries at present – including children to do homework – face multiple deprivation and live in some of the most overcrowded housing in the borough.

“The libraries are a crucial lifeline to opportunity and if we lose these libraries then Lambeth will be leaving our communities to rot.”

One of the Carnegie’s last achievements was to win cash to aid deprived people locally.

The letter to GLL was signed by:

Kate Hoey, MP for Vauxhall; Marjorie Landels, chair Minet Hub, chair Myatt’s Fields Park Project, chair Friends of Minet Library; Jeff Doorn, chair, Friends of Carnegie Library; Anthea Masey, Loughborough Junction Action Group; Nicholas Edwards, SE5 Forum Lambeth Representative; Louise Gardiner-Hill, Chair, Minet Conservation Association; Lucia Vinzon, director, Indoamerican Refugee and Migrant Organisation ; Maude Estwick, Chair, Milkwood Residents Association; Tracey Gregory, chair, LEAF (Loughborough, Evandale, Akerman, Fiveways) Tenants and Residents Association; Dawn Kalu, committee member LEAF Tenants and Residents Association; Pastor Lorraine Jones, director Dwayne Simpson Foundation ; Andrea Brown, It’s Your Local Market; Lucy Williams, Myatts Fields South TRA; Dirk Bischof, CEO One Planet Ventures; John Frankland, former chair of Thorlands Housing Management Society; June Armstrong, residents’ representative of The Happenings, Myatts Fields North estate; John Torjussen, Milkwood estate; Laura Mitchison, On The Record; Ceri Buckmaster, Hidden Conflicts, Open Grief, Angell Town; Ruth Samuel, mental health carers’ advice, support and development worker, Carers Hub; Lahnah Johnson, Healing Gardens; Marc Elmes, Tomric Schueller Elmes, Georgina Schueller, Maya Schueller Elmes, Jane Campbell, John Campbell, South Island Workshop; Bernadette Johnson, practice manager, Herne Hill Road Medical Practice; Lu Firth, volunteer coordinator, Cool Tan Arts; Elizabeth Ochagavia, member of Friends of Carnegie Library; Edward Ochagavia, Carnegie Chess Club.

Brixtonblog approached GLL for comment which had not be received at the time of publication.


  1. A week ago Ruth Cashman of UNISON wrote an excellent article on Lambeth’s Library crisis, which residents should read and senior officers and councillors would be wise to read and supply answers to the points which she has raised. As yet they have scarcely scratched the surface, and there is a wide variety of questions upon which residents and staff are entitled to be given full and truthful answers – on the space to be allotted to library services, staffing, costs, governance, and what are the minimum requirements that GLL will be required to fulfill.

    Here is the link to the article –

  2. This is becoming a public disgrace: not only have Labour councillors avoided engaging with their constituents at pulic meetings, but they have evaded their responsibility to make proper and adequate enquiries about the detailed operation of the proposed scheme and its financial viability, that is, as far as Lambeth is concerned – as far as GLL is concerned, it looks like a ‘no loss’ bet!
    Why is GLL being gifted these premise to run gyms, for which there is no obvious demand, while charities, voluntary organisations and local businesses, who might have been happy to pay commercial rents, have been ignored?
    Of course, you cannot expect a public library to be self-supporting financially, any more than you can expect this of a school; however, the continuous financing of these libraries out of public funds for the benefit of local residents, was exactly what the council promised the original donors of these premises, and it is morally offensive to gift them to an organisation over which residents will have no control, well knowing that the likelihood of such an organisation being able to sustain the original purposes of the donors’ gift from the moneys raised by running a gym is, at best, debatable.
    If there was a serious commercial case for a gym, then one of the many commercial providers would already have stepped in to establish one.
    Of course, if you receive free premises, and a generous bounty to enable you to set up a business, without any inconvenient conditions on how it will be run, and how much space and how many qualified staff will be employed to run it, it becomes a most attractive proposition.
    A very large number of residents have clearly expressed their opinion that they do not want what the Council and GLL have on offer; it is now time for the council to reconsider this unpopular and divisive scheme.
    If they have any doubts about the public feeling on this matter, let them consider the events of the last two weeks, and also look at the signatories to the letter to GLL above, which include just about every resident representative body operating in the area surrounding the Carnegie and Minet Libraries.

  3. Carnegie receives approximately 6000 of the 120000 visits Lambeth libraries receive per month. That’s closer to 5% than 2% and that’s before accounting for the more limited opening hours of Carnegie compared to of the others.

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