The government is to investigate Lambeth council’s plans to turn some of its libraries into “healthy living centres” run by social enterprise Greenwich Leisure Limited.
The news comes after protestors yesterday (11th April) ended their 10-day occupation of Carnegie Library.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) told the Guardian it was treating objections to the council’s plans as official complaints. By law, the department has a legal duty to intervene if a council is failing to provide a 'comprehensive and efficient' library service under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964.
Lambeth’s planned cuts to its library services include changing four or its 10 libraries, turning two (including Herne Hill) into “healthy living centres” – gyms with a “section” for books and computers. However, no trained librarians would be on site under the plans.
Around 30 protestors occupied Herne Hill library on 31st March and even though they left yesterday, they said they came out “today stronger than we went in, just as resolute and with much more support. By coming out today, we can march together. We may be leaving the library today, but our campaign continues”.
They said in a statement: “Privatisation and cuts can be resisted and it is possible to win…The world knows now that there is no future for the absurd plan for gyms in these libraries. We leave the library today with the intention that we will all be returning back through the doors; when Carnegie Library is reopened, Minet Library is reopened and the future of Waterloo and Upper Norwood libraries are secured.”
Several writers, Cathy Cassidy, Nick Hornby and David Nicholls, have signed an open letter condemning the planned changes in Lambeth saying “libraries are vital for every community”.
“We realize that there may have to be changes in the way that libraries are staffed and run. Many of these changes are ones the Carnegie and Minet librarians have already put into place,” the letter said. “The Carnegie library has endured for 110 years – why should we be the generation that fails to pass it on?”