Blackheath’s library: Lowest number of visits in Lewisham

The graph above shows the number of people who visited Lewisham’s various libraries in 2012. The green line at the bottom is the Blackheath community library.

Let’s zoom in a bit, and just look at the community libraries:

So of all the community libraries in Lewisham, ours gets the fewest visits (and the fewest items issued too incidentally).

But maybe the old library was never very popular either, right? Except that here are the two months of visitors data just before it closed. Look how they compare to the same two months in 2012 for the new library:

For every one person that walks into the current library, more than five people walked into the old one in 2011.

The old library which is now a private school.

I hope the Labour councillors and MP are proud of this achievement. Bravo.

Issue Data from google doc here.
Visitor data from google doc here.
See previous post on this subject Ex-libraries from 2011


Filed under age exchange, blackheath, lewisham, library, politics

26 responses to “Blackheath’s library: Lowest number of visits in Lewisham

  1. Richard Tomkins

    The other person to be “proud” of this is Sir Ian Mills, also the Blackheath Society who failed to oppose the closure of the village library.

    • Neil Rh

      No it didn’t. It encouraged the Save Blackheath LIbrary group in every possible way. Ian MIlls also did an excellent job,. If it hadn’t been for him there would be no Age Exchange and no library either.

      • Oh dear, what consternations are arising.
        This is a serious issue and has involved quiet a goodly amount of public money to sustain. Forget that the council said the whole policy was to save money!
        Age Exchange received a nice sweetner for providing the building and has since asked for Locality funding etc. Nothing comes cheap, not even the loss of a library with professionally trained staff.
        Incidentally the Manor House has a large mortgage to service until 2049, and we are all paying for that. It could have been Heritage Lottery money, but not where the council is involved. Repayments of £122,000 per annum would have kept the Blackheath Village Library going!

  2. Hiding it wasn’t a good idea.

  3. Thanks for this article. I will feature, if I may, on Public Libraries News today. By the way, what do you mean it is “now a private school”?

  4. Rowland Evans

    I don’t live in Blackheath now,but I was there on the day that the library opened. The smell of the new books and the paths to knowledge that we
    were given are irreplaceable , but it is 2012 now and the world has gone sour.

  5. Realistic resident

    It may have gone, but Manor House is a 15 minute walk away, and the central libray’s not that far either – as well as the Age Exchange being there.

    Or would you rather have the council paying a commercial rent and cutting social services instead?

  6. Pingback: Round up | Alan Gibbons' Diary

  7. darren taylor


    I do not understand this article, The building is going through a refurbishment, and only has a temp library, this is why the figures are so low.

    When Torridon and manor House, were closed for refurbishment, there were no visitor figures for months.

    Why not see how the Visitor figures pick up after the refurbishment is finished in November.

    • When Manor House was refurbished, Darren, its library continued throughout via a temporary fixed ‘Mobile Library’ stationed in its drive.
      Check your figures, Sunshine.

      • Jim Benoit

        Not that mobile then

      • Realistic Resident

        It is disappointing to see this abusive post from Ms or Mr Richardson. There is no need to be abusive. In any case, a mobile library can in no way be expected to provide the level of service as a fully open branch library, so I think Mr Taylor’s point stands, and yours does not.

  8. Anonymous

    You sad lot are revelling in this, aren’t you. Well, enjoy it while it lasts.

  9. Cathie Gard

    Does the person who is afraid to give their name really think we are ENJOYING this? Library closures are a disaster for all concerned. To pretend that a tiny stock of books in one small room without trained staff is a “library” epitomises the decay of language which is bound to follow when real libraries are closed. As someone who as part of their library career once ran Blackheath Library I can testify that it was much more than books, we had weekly activities for children and adults, rooms to let to local organisations, school visits, reading schemes, Sure Start events etc. In fact it was once really a community library. And no, this is not personal sour grapes, I had retired before this shameful event was forced on the borough.

  10. Perhaps if the council money wasn’t all being spent on paying off gross debts racked up by the years and years of waste (80p out of every £1 we spend on council tax in Lewisham FACT) we wouldn’t have lost our library.

    I run the Blackheath Readers Book Club – we have hundreds of keen people following us on facebook and twitter. People in Blackheath are passionate about books and deserve a local resource. 4 out of 5 children no longer read books for pleasure and how can you expect them to when libraries are closing down left right and centre?

    If the a new library is to succeed in Blackheath, the culture of it has to change. Young people are put off by the stuffy attitude of having to tread carefully, be silent and having to pay fines for late returns (even as an adult I’m always made to feel like I’m being a huge burden when I ask even a simple question at Manor House Library). We need a library that is not only a place to borrow books but somewhere that anyone of any age can feel comfortable to go to read, research and socialise.

  11. Realistic Resident

    OK, Blackheath Readers – what council services should be shut instead to get that library? Parks, social services, road repairs, schools? The council has taken a 28% hit in their annual government grant (which is over 75% of total income, council tax is a small part of it) so something has to give. What do you think it should be?

    • Anne

      I think we should but costs by firing some officious council officials …. that would be an excellent start

      • Realistic Resident

        Great idea, then if there’s no one left to run council services, the council can hand them over to the community. Oh, yes the council suggested that and no one actually wanted that.

  12. Gina Raggett

    Lewisham had a number of options for saving money AND keeping the Village library open. They could have rented out the top floor of the building for a start. They could also have shared senior library management posts with other boroughs, as have Kensington, Hammersmith etc who have kept all their libraries and avoided sacking a single librarian without impinging on social services. Lewisham preferred to axe libraries and to continue paying Aileen Buckton, who is in charge of libraries, £138,500 a year, which is just £5K less than David Cameron’s salary.

    However good its intentions, Age Exchange has neither the space nor the staff to provide an adequate library service. Book issues from the rather nice Bakehouse are running at around 8 per day, as opposed to between 80 and 100 from the Village library. The shortfall has not been taken up by other libraries, including Manor House. Does anyone seriously believe things will improve when AE’s paltry collection of books is shunted into the basement?

    We were promised a “vibrant community centre”, a library that was “even better” than before, an army of “fully trained volunteers”, “greatly extended opening hours” and delivery of books from central stocks “within 24 hours” at “probably no charge”. What we are in fact getting is an admittedly much improved centre for the elderly, but with no evening openings, a shortfall in the number of volunteers, and a charge of 50p per title for ordering books which according to Lewisham’s own figures take on average 30 days to arrive.

    Anyone who thinks this doesn’t matter, or that “no one uses libraries any more” should visit Peckham Library and weep.

  13. Realistic Resident

    Gina, your argument is ridiculous. The council officer you refer to is not paid £138k to run libraries. She manages the library service, yes, but she also manages all of the other cultural services that the council runs, alongside sport and recreation. But that will be a tiny part of the services for which she is responsible. A quick google search will reveal she also is responsible for adult social care. The budget for which will dwarf whatever is spent on libraries and will also in many instances involve services which are a matter of life and death for those who receive them.

    But, please do feel free to ignore this and make a facile point with a comparison to David Cameron’s salary.

    • Heartofthevillage resident

      “Ridiculous” “Facile” – it is disappointing to see this abusive post.

      Personally, I found Gina’s points interesting and well-expressed . I agree that David Cameron is overpaid for what he does. However, although I’m certain he doesn’t do the job for the money, I do not think he would take a pay cut to reopen the library.

      And thank you Bugle for trying to inject some reason into what is a sensitive subject by giving us the relevant statistics. They seem incontravertible to me. Critics of Gina should, in my opinion, focus instead on the waste of public money spent giving old ladies somewhere to read the newspapers for free. It would be cheaper and more humane to give such people a subscription so that they can read the Daily Mail in the peace and quiet of their own homes where they are not disturbed by ferile children and do not have to pay for hot beverages. And surely this scheme of Sir Ian’s is simpy reinforcing the benefits culture? Having said that, I can sympathise with the “Oldie” in question: many people of my generation have “memory problems” which make reading the newspapers a mighty challenge requiring almost superhuman concentration.

  14. Anonymous

    I visited the old library weekly with my 3 children for over 14 years, a wonderful resource, visited the Age Exchange library and enjoyed a few weeks of reading books to my son, but was then asked to be quiet because an old lady was concentrating on a newspaper article and we were disturbing her, put us off I’m afraid – maybe explains poor numbers? Closing the old library was a huge loss, perhaps Realistic Resident should consider the community facilities which Lewisham funds for residents of Blackheath in comparison to other locations in the borough

  15. Realistic Resident

    Manor House and the central library are a short bus ride away. I ask you again, anonymous – what other front line services would you rather see cut? Social care, parks, roads? A commercial rent was being paid on the Blackheath library site.

  16. Andrew

    I visited the Bakehouse library and found it appalling for the very simple reason that it is not open on Saturdays and above all it has no books. As for the comment that Manor House and the central library are a short bus ride away that’s very inconvenient for me. I have no reason to go to Lewisham. I live in Blackheath not in Lewisham and that is where I want my services.

    Thank heaven that we still have the very good Blackheath Standard library even if it is much less conveniently sited than the Village.

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