A young woman who was one of the occupiers of the Carnegie library in Herne Hill earlier this year has won a top award for her work in the campaign against Lambeth council’s plans for it.
Rosa Beuzeval, 16, was named Student of the Year at a City Hall ceremony last week organised by First Give, a charity that trains and encourages school students to work for good causes.
Her citation mentioned the occupation in April this year, which she took part in when only 15 years old.
First Give works with secondary schools to “ignite a spark of social conscience in young people” and to “help build a new generation of motivated and switched-on young people who want to use their skills to support local charities and make the lives of others in and around their communities better”.
More than 20,000 students from 107 schools took part this year.
The programme consists of eight lessons and a grant of £1,500 for each school. Students visit charities and then compete in a debate to win part of the grant for their chosen charity.
The Friends said that this is being invested in expert legal and business advice to support asset transfer of the library building to a new body it has set up, the Carnegie Library Association.
Two bodies are competing to take over the library, which is to be run by Lambeth council’s leisure provider Better, formerly known as GLL, after its basement is turned into a gym.
The Friends say that the building, when re-opened, will not offer the same level of library service or of safety for young people. The council, which recently mounted a brief exhibition of its plans, says that it intends to reopen the building “at the earliest opportunity” and to keep the ground and first floors for community use, including a new “neighbourhood library”. GLL will assume the running costs of the building.
The other organisation seeking to take over the library is the Carnegie Community Trust (CCT) which has a business plan for the whole building – to include a library and a range of employment-related and cultural resources and activities.
The deadline for bids to take over the library is next Friday, 28 October.
CCT said it had been told that the council was likely to meet the cost of independent community mediation between the rival organisations “if this should be considered helpful”.
A planning application for the council’s planned changes to the Carnegie building is due at the end of the month.
Rosa Beuzeval’s citation from First Give says: “Rosa has been very involved in her charity after she and her team won £1,000 for them during First Give. She has completed three months volunteering and has become inspirational to others as a young activist – she slept in the library for 10 nights as part of a community protest against council cuts threatening to close the library!”
The Friends of Carnegie Library said that young people like Rosa were a mainstay of the occupation. “They joined to protect their precious study space, now expensively kept closed and guarded. During the occupation they made full use of a room we set aside for study.
“Rosa has continued to give us unstinting support. We really appreciate it. Her award from First Give is very well deserved – and it shows that direct action against an uncaring, ill-informed council is rightly seen as a valuable contribution to society.”