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.

9 Comments

Filed under blackheath, books, charities, politics

9 responses to “The Reluctant Library

  1. Greenwich Council’s overview and scrutiny panel will discuss the ceasing of funding for Age Exchange next week. Don’t know how much they get, though.

    I wouldn’t apologise to anyone for a bad-tempered post – you’ve as much right to a say on your local area as the Blackheath Society do. Indeed, if you hadn’t been told earlier you could see these plans for free at AE’s place, then it’s only right you should be asking difficult questions.

  2. gillian gadsby

    Interesting about the library read-in. I have been in contact with Lucy Mangan, along with other authors, who are generously giving their time to the five threatened libraries in Lewisham. I asked them to read from anything they liked, but most likely their latest book, as that is what people know them for. But as I am the only person who has been in touch with Lucy from Blackheath, and she hasn’t told me what she is going to read, how do you know? And why is it a shameless bid to save the library in the first paragraph, and then a question as to why the library isn’t being saved in the next. Please get your facts right. If you want information on the Blackheath Village Library why not ask the Blackheath Village Library Group. We are happy to help!

    Gillian Gadsby
    BVLUG

    PS We also have Blake Morrison, Lindsey Davis, Neil Rhind and Father Nicholas, from All Saints, all coming in a shameless bid to save the library

    • I was being tongue-in-cheek. I think it’s great that she’s giving up her time to help save the library. I was just making a crass and slightly tasteless joke about plugging her book (which I read extracts from in the Guardian, and is funny – particularly when you’re about to get married, as I was when I read it!). I found out about her coming from her twitter post here.

      I didn’t say that the library won’t be saved. I really hope it is. I questioned the wisdom of offering the council an easy get-out by merging with Age Exchange.

    • Dan

      Father Nicholas from All Saints? I only remember Nicole, Natalie, Mel and Shaznay?

  3. On the first of your questions, my guess would be that the sort of intervention by Age Exchange is proposing is the only way to save the library, and that in the face of the funding cuts this year, next year and the year after that (see here for my take) that the choices facing the council are pretty grim.

    I may be wrong but given the options I think playing chicken with the council wouldn’t have led to the library being given a reprieve.

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  5. House of joy

    I think what the bugle meant by “shameless” was that Lucy MAngan was going to read from her own book. The word did not apply to the intention we all have to keep the existing library in its existing place, with the same staff paid for by the council. As to the freeholder of the library someone did write to them – twice – but did not receive so much as an acknowledgement!! Bugle’s idea was good though.

  6. On the subject of Greenwich council’s planned cuts, another victim is local concert hall and community arts venue, the Blackheath Halls, on Lee Road. This is not only a venue for a wide range of arts events but it also runs workshops for schools, a community orchestra and chorus, a youth orchestra, tea dances, not to mention the annual community opera. The Halls are currently appealing against the cuts and there’s an online petition for anyone who wants to show their support at: http://www.gopetition.com/petition/42829.html

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