The following statement has been issued by the Friends of the Durning Library in Kennington Lane about the decisions on the future of libraries by Lambeth Council Cabinet on Monday (12 October).
On 12 October 2015, Lambeth Cabinet approved a report proposing that the Durning rather than Tate South Lambeth should be designated as the ‘town centre library’ to serve the north of the borough for the next five to seven years. This major change from what was previously proposed is to be the subject of further consultations which are to take place in November. When we have more information, we will contact Friends again about this consultation.
Subject to the outcome of the consultation, the proposals now approved by Cabinet will mean that the Durning will continue to be council-funded and run, and thus that the north of the borough should get a better library service than was previously proposed, at least for the next five to seven years. There is also to be some welcome capital investment in the Durning building, including improved access, on the lines suggested in the recent Options Appraisal.
Your committee considers that this revised proposal is a significant improvement on what was previously planned for the Durning. We hope therefore that, following the November consultation, it will go ahead, and that there will be rapid progress in carrying out the essential work needed to secure the structure of the building and improve access to it.
At the same time, we remain deeply concerned about the future of Lambeth’s library service as a whole. The report to Cabinet offered no change in the proposed 40% reduction in revenue funding for libraries, which have been starved of resources for decades. The service urgently needs investment so that it can continue to modernise itself and adapt to the changing needs of Lambeth’s rapidly growing and diversifying population. Libraries are far more than the traditional idea of dusty collections of books on shelves and we know that modern libraries contribute in many ways to meeting the council’s overall objectives. Further revenue cuts on the scale now agreed, on top of those that have already been made, put the future of the whole service in jeopardy.
We also share the concerns of the other Lambeth libraries Friends’ groups about the potential impact of the proposals on those libraries that have been designated as neighbourhood libraries and are scheduled to become part of ‘healthy living centres’ run by Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL). We have no evidence that this model can work and we have little confidence that ‘bookshelves in the corner of a gym’ is a recipe for a successful modern library.’