Blackheath Library move into Age Exchange?


Lewisham Council would like to move the library into the Age Exchange.

Here’s a hastily retyped synopsis of the plans that Age Exchange and the council have suggested. These are not verbatim- please read the full PDFs below (they are photocopies, so I can’t just copy and paste the text):

Four months ago informal discussions started at a senior level between Age Exchange and Lewisham about the possibility of the Borough making use in the provision of some of its services, of either or both of Age Exchange’s building in Blackheath village, namely the Reminiscence Centre and the Bakehouse.

Just under four weeks ago Lewisham asked if they could talk to us about their Blackheath Library and Information Services. At a first meeting both parties agreed to examine the possibility of this service being relocated at the Reminiscence Centre but recognised that very little further work could be undertaken until Age Exchange had a clear idea of the range of service Lewisham might want to relocate.

Lewisham council will provide a range of possible service specifications as soon as possible
Age Exchange will commission architects to assess (1) whether such services could be relocated in upgraded and adapted ground and lower ground floor space at the Reminiscence Centre, (2) what, if this looked practical, the capital costs might be and (3) how quickly the physical transformation could be achieved. There was agreement that any future service could be staffed in part by trained volunteers.
A Coordinating Oversight Group (COG) would be set up, to ensure that all involved parties were happy with what was planned (see PDF for full details).

Age Exchange aren’t trying to prevent anyone from campaigning for the survival of the existing library, but they think that the budget looks pretty grim, and that an affordable solution could be worked out in partnership with them. They will be open about any progress that is made.

Below are the documents from the Library Closure meeting with Lewisham council, kindly provided by a reader.

Graphical PDF Documents:
The Future of Blackheath Library
Age Exchange Statement to Blackheath Library Meeting
Changing Libraries

If you want to continue to receive information about the consultation into Blackheath library please send an email to the Blackheath Village Library Users Group at se3villagelibrary@yahoo.co.uk and ask to be added to their distribution list. They were collecting email addresses at the meeting for this purpose.

So, what is to be made of this? Lewisham Council do not view the Piazza option as viable, due to lack of funds and local opposition. The metrics that they use (e.g. “Issues Per Hour”) to justify the closure are weighted against our library, because of the already limited opening hours – the library isn’t open for half the week! They are looking to make a lot of library staff redundant, and blame the high cost of the building, which is rented (i.e. short sightedness in never purchasing a building in the first place).

I’m a big fan of the Age Exchange. I suspect that the offer was made in good faith, but will simply be the dying phase of the library. That’s not to say that it shouldn’t be accepted. In some respects, having a library in such a prominent place on the high street may work in its favour. I’m really torn by this proposal. What do you think?

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4 Comments

Filed under blackheath, books

4 responses to “Blackheath Library move into Age Exchange?

  1. Darryl

    Both the Age Exchange centre and the Bakehouse are technically in Greenwich borough- I wonder what they’d have to say?

  2. mcilip

    The library is generally under-used and cannot justify continued public funding on its own.
    Transforming libraries into more generalist council service hubs is the way forward – register your births, pay your council tax, sort out housing etc
    This requires pan-council thinking from Lewisham rather than just dealing with this as a library problem. Don’t see any signs that they’re doing that at the moment.

    • I pretty much disagree. Most of those functions would be better handled online. For the few tasks that would need to be handled face to face, a small local library wouldn’t be suitable for dealing with those, unless you get rid of all the books. And if you get rid of all the books, it’s not a library anymore.

      • Darryl

        The “general service hubs” is Greenwich’s approach – the one in Eltham incorporates its library – although the risk with that is services get over-centralised in bigger town centres (which happens with Greenwich, where things get packed off to Woolwich).

        There’s no way Lewisham would turn Blackheath Village library into a “service hub” because it sits right on the edge of the borough – they’d far rather you went to Lewisham or Catford.

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