A future for our libraries

Funding cuts and cross-borough quarrels have left Upper Norwood library closed three days a week, with the loss of five members of staff. We don’t think anyone should be left without a library within walking or cycling distance.

Libraries are hugely valuable for the local community. As well as books, they provide a community space, a way to boost educational attainments, a place for parents to take their young children, free public internet access for people looking for work and claiming benefits, positive benefits for local shops and businesses, and much more besides.

It’s not realistic for volunteers to manage and finance libraries on their own. Croydon are offering far too little money to support the library, and Bromley and Southwark don’t pay a penny while their residents benefit.

While the Upper Norwood Library Trust was created by a great campaign to cope with cuts, we think it could provide a model for cross-borough working. Owned by the local community, but properly funded by the four boroughs in proportion to number of their residents who use it, the library could stay open six days a week. With a business development manager in post, the Trust can also look at more innovative ways of bringing people into the building, and raising funds.

It isn’t just Upper Norwood. Anerley library’s future in doubt, and many other libraries across London facing cuts because of the Government’s misguided austerity agenda, compounded by the other parties’ damaging council tax cuts.

We think we should all pay a fair contribution towards guaranteeing basic public services, including libraries, and that with community ownership, leadership and entrepreneurial spirit our libraries can remain lively hubs in the community.

You can listen here to one of our local candidates, Tom Chance, putting this case at a local Question Time event hosted by the Crystal Palace Chamber of Commerce, and listen to what the other parties had to say.