Lambeth library workers walked out of work yesterday (Wednesday 18th November) in a protest over plans to convert three libraries into ”healthy living centres,” the Evening Standard has reported.
Last week library workers held a ballot to strike over plans to turn Carnegie, Minet and either Tate South or Durning libraries into healthy living centres with reduced library service in buildings which will be leased to Greenwich Leisure Limited, the social enterprise company that runs Lambeth’s leisure centres.
At least a quarter of the libraries’ staff will be made redundant if the plans go ahead, Unison has said.
A statement on the Save Our Libraries – Lambeth Facebook page reads: “The library will be closed today as staff have walked out to try and stop our libraries closing forever.
“We have been forced into this protest, as council management are pushing through with proposals and refusing to look at alternatives despite questions and challenges from Lambeth’s Scrutiny Committee and the government’s Department for Culture, Media & Sport.”
Cllr Jane Edbrooke, cabinet member for neighbourhoods, said she understood concerns but added that strikers were being "unhelpful and counter-productive." She said: “The fact is Lambeth council has come up with proposals that keep the majority of our libraries open – while helping make us make the £200m in savings need in response to government budget cuts.
“Regarding the future of our libraries we have listen to residents, worked with the community groups and been creative in how we keep services open to the public.
“Yes there will be job losses among library staff, and yes at least two of our 10 libraries will be run as Healthy Living Centres, creating income to keep them open alongside a neighbourhood library service in the buildings.
“I know these changes are difficult, I know no one wants to see services revised – but that is the reality we now face.”
Tate South, one of the threatened libraries, is the only library in England to be nominated by disabled people for an Accessible Britain Challenge Award. The library is home to the ‘Libraries for Everyone’ scheme which enables people with visual impairment or dyslexia to use all printed resources and free computers in libraries.
In 2014, the DCMS Libraries report called the scheme “pioneering, innovative and unique."
Vauxhall CIC, a local not-for-profit community organisation, worked with Lambeth libraries, social services and disabled people to create 'Libraries for Everyone.'
Christina Burnett, a director of Vauxhall CIC, said: “We cannot understand why a social enterprise like GLL would attack a unique national resource for disabled people. Before the GLL bid, Lambeth planned to retain Tate South Lambeth as a fully staffed main ‘town centre’ library. Now the library will no longer be safe or accessible and our work will stop.”