Friday 19th February 2010 at 7.30 pm was SHOWTIME FOR THE NEWLY REFURBISHED West Greenwich Library a Grade II listed Carnegie library building.

After Greenwich Council attracted a poor Best Value Library Review and following advice from its officers a decision had to be made. It was decided to invest in the service. Funding of £1.3m was found, (we heard whispers about the source but need it confirmed.) This was to cover 5 libraries in the Greenwich Borough service. The Eltham Library had already been renovated and modernised, re-opening in early 2008 to great acclaim and increased usage from its High Street site. It remains in its old building (Grade II listed) but was successfully incorporated into the newly built College and Leisure Centre.
With this under her belt, Julia Newton, Head of Community Services, plus the considerable help of her deputy, Steve Woods, General Manager of Libraries, began the project. Councillors, Friends and Users were involved from the 5 libraries involved; Eltham, West Greenwich, New Eltham, the Slade and Blackheath.

Please visit the new West Greenwich Library if you are in the vicinity. See what is achievable in a beautiful Carnegie building, now providing a twenty first century library. The welcoming atmosphere, space and light say it all. The building has lost none of its heritage, charm and character. All have been appropriately featured and incorporated into the new facilities

We were fortunate to be invited to this preview by the Friends of West Greenwich. Foremost in all our minds were thoughts of how Phyllis Harwood, longtime chair of the Friends, would have loved this outcome and felt vindicated in her unerring support for libraries, especially West Greenwich. It was a great sadness that she died before Christmas, but what a tribute is the restored library to her and the Friends. In fact, the Friends were ecstatic!

Once the councillors took the blinkers off and voted for some financial support the officers were available to think out the plans and help achieve the best for the building and the local community.

Now, we travel East down the High Street to East Greenwich Library, another beautiful red-brick Carnegie building. It is almost under the A2 flyover, with Tunnel Avenue behind. Fortunately there is a good crossing facility and although close to the Peninsula Area it could be a cultural jewel. The small library facility shares the building with the Music College. There is plenty of youth about!
There are also the Friends of East Greenwich Library, still hanging in there to support this library presence.

Patricia Richardson,
Minutes Secretary, Libraries for Life for Londoners,
Secretary, Users & Friends of Manor House Library, SE13


This opened in 1905 but was under threat of closure about 15 years ago. Richard Bartlett took exception to this and established a Friends group. This helped to keep the library open and with a future. Eventually it was decided to re-locate the library into a new facility of housing and retail on the former Greenwich District Hospital site, across the road. Users did not really want to leave their historic premises, and are still there. Sadly Richard died, but he would be pleased at the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. The new development has still not taken place. Consequently chickens started to come home to roost over maintenance that had not been done. Flooding and drains are proving a real problem.

On Monday evening (22nd February) the Friends held a Music and Poetry Fest. The local councillor for Peninsula ward and Chair of the Council Committee reviewing Greenwich Libraries, Mary Mills, was able to announce that the Council was providing between £200,000 - £250,000 to deal with the problems. Details are due to be announced shortly.
Richards widow, Mollie Bartlett, was present and along with the Chairman of the Friends, Terry Wheeler, most were feeling a bit more optimistic. They were determined to enjoy themselves, so they put on a SHOW, at least the college students did!

We had been welcomed by a well researched display of the history of the library and the area, which may transfer to a blog. We were also told of the historic connections of the East Greenwich parliamentary constituency with colonists representation in Parliament. Part of the Kings Manor of Greenwich was represented in Parliament through East Greenwich. The American colonists attempting to achieve independence was one of the groups represented in Parliament in this way.

But, on with the Show.. We started with a local poet who had concentrated on the value of libraries, and East Greenwich in particular, in her charming poem.
The college students then entertained with some old favourites. Sasha chose Cry me a River, followed by Frederica with I love you, I do. The third, The weakness in me was performed by Rosie, accompanied by Jason on the piano. From across the Channel was Stephane with Ordinary People.
The interlude was filled by Jackie from the Reading Group (which meets the first Thursday of the month at 7.00 pm) who was able to fill in the gaps in the life of Andrew Carnegie, emphasising his commitment to libraries, and why!
This was followed by a real treat when Gina sang I change my mind accompanied by Frederica and Rosie.
James and Fred entertained with almost rap, followed by Danny with Rap Trap.
Finally, Carlos, a tutor at the college, reappeared to play Tenderly on his jazz guitar.
The cake was cut and everyone seemed very cheerful and jolly, awaiting the announcements on the work to be done to the building. The Friends group had been very ably supported by the head of the college, Paul Hall. Such mutual support and interaction are so important


Patricia Richardson, Minutes Secretary, Libraries for Life for Londoners
Secretary, The Users & Friends of Manor House Library, SE13