A brief reprieve for Lewisham libraries and a small rant (apologies)…
Lewisham county council were set to close five libraries in the borough – Crofton Park, Sydenham, New Cross, Grove Park and Blackheath, but they’ve earned a brief, two month reprieve, from Lewisham’s mayor Sir Steve Bullock.
There has been a huge campaign to save these libraries and I’ve signed a lot of petitions against the Blackheath library closure. It’s not our main library, but in a lot of ways it is the most useful.
Milo and I don’t go to Blackheath very often – it is close to us and there is the Heath to run around on but by the time we get there we don’t generally have a huge amount of time before we have to set off home again for lunch, tea, his nap etc… We are also often there for a reason, buying new shoes for little feet, pressies, so the library is a bit of a lifeline for a boy who’s been stuck in the buggy for a while, especially when it’s raining and his chest isn’t coping well with the weather.
The librarians are friendly and we’ve taken out some good reads. It’s a small library but I imagine for a lot of people in the area, it’s a bit of a lifeline – Lewisham library and Manor House Gardens are quite a bit further away.
This is what Sir Steve Bullock had to say about the reprieve:
“I did not seek election as your mayor in order to close down libraries.
“However the scale of the challenge and size of the cuts we are faced with due to decisions taken by this Tory/Lib Dem government means that we are faced with very difficult choices in order to protect the most vulnerable in our community.
“I believe in libraries and the difference they can make which is why over £6.5m has been spent in the last four years in providing 21st century library facilities across Lewisham.
“The current proposals do not provide enough detail on the alternative community library proposals and on the transitional costs of moving to these alternatives.
“I am therefore minded next week to defer a decision on this proposal for up to two months to provide time for those proposals to be firmed up and to allow those who want to be involved to come forward and have further discussions with the council.”
I really don’t want any of these libraries to be shut down. They are invaluable, important and improve quality of life for so many people, including and especially those who are vulnerable within our community.
I was discussing this with a relative recently and he was enthusiastic about the need to keep libraries open and how it would be a shame to see so many close. We were chatting and I asked how good his new local library was and did he go often (they’d been in their new house for a few months) and he said he hadn’t visited it and with books being so cheap through Amazon he didn’t really have reason too. And so there the conversation ended.
This attitude and nostalgia for libraries I am sure is quite common and I do agree books are cheaper now, they are easier to get hold of more than ever before especially digitally, but they are not free unless you visit your library and for those of us suffering, whether it be a little or a lot, in our current economical climate, libraries have taken on a greater importance than ever for an awful lot of people. And quite frankly how do you know whether you have reason to visit or not unless you actually go there?
Our library shows films each weekend – some for kids, but some also just for adults. There are also free art events, dance events, lectures and the like. We do have a very proactive library and community but ours is not the exception.
Without our local library Milo would be without his most used phrase of the moment “silly billy” taken from a recent Thomas the Tank Engine title borrowed from the library. He’s used it mostly to describe his daddy this weekend who can, quite often be a very silly billy!