Lambeth library campaigners protested outside Brixton Rec this evening to demand answers on the future of borough libraries from both Lambeth council and its leisure provider GLL They were joined by Rachel Heywood, the Coldharbour Ward councillor suspended by the ruling Lambeth council Labour group for six months after voicing concern about its policy on libraries and other issues.
GLL, now renamed Better, runs the Rec and will run Lambeth’s Carnegie and Minet libraries after they are converted to “healthy living centres” incorporating gyms and a reduced library service.
Laura Swaffield, chair of chair of Friends of Lambeth Libraries, said that, despite months of promises, there was still little detail about exactly what is to happen to the two libraries.
She described the council’s recent exhibition on the future of the Carnegie (below) as “four leaflets blown up to poster size”.
She said the two libraries have been closed since April “for no reason” as planning permission or their conversion is not due to be sought until September.
Herne Hill councillor Jim Dickson said: “The Carnegie exhibition was a good opportunity for council officers, local councillors and GLL staff to explain the current proposals for the library when it re-opens and listen to local residents on their aspirations for the building and library service in the future.
“There were frank and honest conversations with hundreds of residents and it was important to reassure people that Carnegie library will re-open, for longer hours and potentially offering more to the community. As explained during the exhibition, we plan to have another engagement event in the near future as plans are developed further.”
Campaigners say that they have been seeking clarification from GLL about exactly how the new arrangements will work, but have not had a satisfactory response.
In one letter, GLL managing director Mark Sesnan said in May that “the position is continually changing particularly with regards to the proposed building layouts”.
In another earlier this year, he said: “I accept there is a need for better communication and community engagement on these projects and we will try to address this.”
GLL was contacted for comment, but did not respond.