Tag Archives: libraries

Ex Libraries

Look at these two charts, and tell me when you think our library was destroyed.

Number of books issued in Blackheath Village libraries from April - October 2011

Number of books issued in Blackheath Village libraries from April to October 2011

Visits to Blackheath Libraries between April - October 2011

Visits to Blackheath Libraries between April - October 2011

The Age Exchange Library is a joke.

In May 6,758 items were borrowed from the library in Blackheath Village. Then the library was closed, and replaced with a community library in Age Exchange. In October, after the Age Exchange library had been open for 3 months, only 832 items were borrowed.

“I didn’t come into civic life to close libraries”, I believe is the familiar refrain. So don’t. Re-open the real library. I don’t care how you do it, find a way. Otherwise you’ve just guaranteed the quickest, most efficient way to dumb down an entire generation. Shame on you vandals.

The data comes from questions by councillor David Britton (a Tory with a slightly scary looking union jack on the blog head), made available by Lewisham councillor Christine Best, the cabinet member with responsibility for libraries, at a council meeting on 29th November:

Here are the two google docs: Question Answer

Including an apology for the crappy numbers:

There have been some initial difficulties with data collection from the Community Libraries, and the Service overall has had a difficult year, completing a major staff reorganization and the introduction of new technologies. The implementation of such major change has had a negative impact on performance, but the Service is confident that both issues and visits will now begin to increase.

Yes, a bit. Maybe. Or perhaps it will just be wound down and closed.

See also: The Bookseller: Catastrophic plunge in lending at Lewisham’s community libraries

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Greenwich moves closer to hiving off libraries

More good news.

853blog: Greenwich moves closer to hiving off libraries

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Books as doves

Blackheath Village Library Read-In Protest

Neil Rhind spoke about the history of libraries in Blackheath, and then revealed that he had popped into the Blackheath Standard library recently, because he needed to check something in his book Blackheath Village and Environs Volume 2, but couldn’t find it on the shelf. A library assistant informed him that “it’s always out. It’s the most stolen book from our library, after the bible”. He seemed delighted by this!

Here’s an extract from the reading by Blake Morrison, from his book The Justification of Johann Gutenberg

One day in the forest, when he was feeding the birds, he says, “it was as if the dove that perched [on my hand] spreading its wings had become an open book. And the dove departing from me was like a book taking flight. And the grain the dove held in its beak was like a kernel of knowledge seeding itself through the world.”

A very pertinent passage, as the grain is about to be snatched from the beaks of future generations.

Both Blake Morrison and Nicholas Cranfield (the vicar from All Saints Church) emphasised the community aspects of the library. Blake Morrison described what he called “bibliotherapy” – the act of reading with others, as something of great value. He emphasised that when politicians define the needs for cuts across services, they often draw a choice between front-line healthcare services, or library services. He spoke very well about his experiences, and said that library services often actively reduce the need for healthcare, by nurturing people’s minds, reducing their reliance on other services. I guess this sort of symbiotic relationship is hard to prove on a balance sheet, but it certainly chimes with my gut feeling of how a library benefits society. Nicholas Cranfield spoke of libraries as a “civilising force”.

On the downside, there wasn’t enough space for the protest inside the library- they should have held it outside with a PA (maybe they could have borrowed the mic from the crazy morris minor sound-system, or moved the bookshelves to make space for the protestors – the shelves were on wheels, so why not make some space?!

All in all, it was an uplifting experience. I’m just not sure that Lewisham Council was paying attention.

(Photo credit: Mrs Bugle, deep undercover…)

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We Love Libraries

Middle Class Protest Save the Library!
In case you’re wondering what that noise is.  It seems to be a dub-reggae PA system jacked onto the back of a shiny black original Morris Minor, outside the library protests. Go and have a look!  See The Suburban Pirate blog.

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2pm: Save Blackheath Library

As you’ve probably already seen, today (Saturday) there will be a day of protests across the country against the proposed library closures. Lewisham Council want to close Blackheath Village Library, so please show your support. Come and read extracts from your favourite book at 2pm. The following authors and local people will be attending:

Neil Rhind
The spectacularly good writer of Blackheath Village and Environs, occasional commenter to this blog, and all round expert on anything to do with Blackheath’s history. To be honest, if you’re living in Blackheath, it’s worth attending just to hear him speak. This blog wouldn’t be what it is without his books as a reference-point.

Lucy Mangan
Columnist for The Guardian, and writer of many books, including The Reluctant Bride: One Woman’s Journey (Kicking and Screaming) Down the Aisle, (extracts of which made me laugh as I was nervously preparing to marry Mrs Bugle).

Blake Morrison
Prolific author, literary editor of both The Observer and the Independent on Sunday.  His latest book is The Last Weekend.

Lindsey Davis
Lindsey Davis – Writer of historic novels, titles include Rebels and Traitors, set around the English Civil War, and Nemesis, an Ancient Roman detective series. Which sounds like fun!

Father Nicholas, from All Saints
The vicar from the big pointy church on the heath. Not this.

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The Reluctant Library

Lucy Mangan of the Grauniad TV reviews will be reading from her book The Reluctant Bride in a shameless bid to save Blackheath Library at 2pm on Saturday. What’s that you say? Maybe it is her favourite book! Why shouldn’t her favourite book be one that she wrote herself, for goodness sake? The trouble with you people is that you are far too cynical.

On another note, Sir Ian Mills of Age Exchange wrote me a very valid email, pointing out that whilst my post “Pay a tenner to find out what will happen to your library” was factually correct, it was also extremely bad tempered. He has a point. I had a hangover. On a school night. Sorry. If you want to look at Age Exchange’s plans for the library, they are on display inside their shop. You should go regardless, it’s a great place.

Nonetheless, some of the comments below the post raise some interesting questions:

  • This seems to me to be the most significant issue: If Age Exchange hadn’t stepped in to offer the council this alternative, wouldn’t there have been more pressure on Lewisham council not to close the library? Isn’t this just giving them an easy get-out?
  • Is this a way for Age Exchange to expand its profile, maintain its funding, and by merging itself with the library, ensure that it cannot be easily removed from the high street? The first role of any organisation is to maintain its own existence, even if it is a charity.
  • Why should local library-goers be encouraged to donate £30 per year to maintain a library service that up until this year was provided by the local council?
  • Darryl claims that Greenwich Council has decided to cease funding for Age Exchange. Does Greenwich Council contribute funds to Age Exchange? (I couldn’t see any mention of them on their funding page).
  • The current library is funded by Lewisham council, but Age Exchange is in the Greenwich Council part of Blackheath. How will this issue be resolved?

I’ve written before about how much I like the Age Exchange Centre.  It’s great.  But by offering Mayor Bullock a Big-Society-friendly way to downgrade the status of the current library, it may have done more harm than good.  Maybe lobbying the current owners of the existing library building to reduce or forgo the rent could have been a better strategy, which is now unavailable to the BVLUG, as the anti-closure lobby is effectively split between two positions.

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Do not cut here

Blackheath Library Read-In Protest
Great poster from the Sydenham Library blog. Come and read extracts from your favourite book in Blackheath Library on 5th Feb, from 2-4pm, as part of the library protests against the cuts.
From the Sydenham Library blog:

We are holding the read-in in conjunction with other libraries across the country. We feel it’s wrong to close essential front line services like this which benefit the whole community.

If you feel the same way please let people know. We hope to see you there.

More info on the Blackheath Village Library Users Group site.

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Meeting tomorrow to Save Blackheath Library

Save Blackheath Library
Lewisham Council are planning to close Blackheath Library.

The final meeting that they are holding takes place tomorrow (Wednesday) evening at 7.30pm, in Blackheath Halls. This is a far easier location for people who actually use the library, so please, if you care at all about the library being shut, please come along.

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More than 4000 people against closing Blackheath Library

The fight back against Lewisham Council continues – over 4000 people have signed the petition against closing Blackheath library, and in the blog below, Alan Gibbons suggests that the council were already planning the cuts before the new government came into power:

Latest from Lewisham Libraries Campaign

What Lewisham are proposing is intellectual vandalism. It should be stopped. If only that building was listed!

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If you want to save the library…


Write to the mayor, and sign the petition. That’s the message from the Blackheath Society, who today sent out an email to its members:

The first priority is to mobilise and demonstrate as much support as possible to preserve a credible library service in the village. The BVLUG are organising a petition which we hope as many as possible will sign. This can be done at Blackheath Station on Saturdays and at the Farmer’s Market on Sunday mornings in coming weekends. This got off to a flying start last weekend, with some 900 signatures – please add yours.

An online petition will also be organised for those unable to sign in person – details will be announced separately.

UPDATE: The online version is here.

They recommend writing to the contacts listed below, and (interestingly) quoting the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, which lists the duties of Library Authorities. Lewisham Council is a Library Authority, and here’s the section:

7 General duty of library authorities

(1)It shall be the duty of every library authority to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons desiring to make use thereof, . .

Provided that although a library authority shall have power to make facilities for the borrowing of books and other materials available to any persons it shall not by virtue of this subsection be under a duty to make such facilities available to persons other than those whose residence or place of work is within the library area of the authority or who are undergoing full-time education within that area.

(2)In fulfilling its duty under the preceding subsection, a library authority shall in particular have regard to the desirability—

(a)of securing, by the keeping of adequate stocks, by arrangements with other library authorities, and by any other appropriate means, that facilities are available for the borrowing of, or reference to, books and other printed matter, and pictures, gramophone records, films and other materials, sufficient in number, range and quality to meet the general requirements and any special requirements both of adults and children; and

(b)of encouraging both adults and children to make full use of the library service, and of providing advice as to its use and of making available such bibliographical and other information as may be required by persons using it; and

(c)of securing, in relation to any matter concerning the functions both of the library authority as such and any other authority whose functions are exercisable within the library area, that there is full co-operation between the persons engaged in carrying out those functions.

What I think this means is that in 1964, Lewisham Council agreed to take on these responsibilities, and they aren’t able to shirk them, just because central government threatens them with massive cuts.

Anyway, please sign the petition if you can, and please write/email to the people the Blackheath Society suggests. They’ve prevented the closure in the past, so they know what they’re talking about!

The Mayor : Sir Steve Bullock
Mayor’s office
Civic Suite, Town Hall, London SE6 4RU
tel: 020 8314 6193
email: steve.bullock@lewisham.gov.uk

Ms Aileen Buckton, Executive Director for Community Services
email: aileen.buckton@lewisham.gov.uk

Please CC blackheath.soc@lineone.net and the local councillors and MP:

Chris Maines(LibDem) CllrChris.Maines@lewisham.gov.uk
Amanda De Ryk (LibDem) CllrAmanda.DeRyk@lewisham.gov.uk
Kevin Bonavia (Labour) CllrKevin.Bonavia@lewisham.gov.uk
Heidi Alexander MP Heidi.alexander.mp@parliament.uk

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