City bankers re-open Blackheath Library

A library in Blackheath has been reopened in a new premises with support from charities and City bankers.

Blackheath Village Library was one of five which had its funding removed in 2011 as part of Lewisham Council’s money-saving efforts. Since the building was leased, it was forced to vacate its original location.

It has now reopened as a community centre run by the Age Exchange charity, with a stock of 10,000 books alongside a café and computer suite.

The charity has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to open the two-storey premises, with 14 City bankers donating £500,000, the council giving £200,000 and local organisation the Blackheath Assembly giving £30,000. Sir Ian Mills, chair of Age Exchange also put in his own money to help the project, which opened on Friday.

Gillian Gadsby, who led the Save Blackheath Library campaign told the EastLondonLines website: “I don’t go along with the Big Society at all. This has just happened coincidentally because it had to. A lot of the people at Age Exchange are volunteers and a lot of people have been volunteering for years anyway. People have always done it. The problem is, there’s a limit to how much volunteers can do.”

After Lewisham transferred control of the five libraries in May 2011, with three being run by computer recycling firm Eco, lending at all the branches plummeted. A report issued in December last year showed that Blackheath village library had the worst results out of any of the transferred libraries, issuing just 572 books in October, down 89% from 5,044 the previous October.