Preparing Placards for the march



The march




Outside the library

Sanderstead Library Supporters remain undeterred!

The support to keep Sanderstead Library open continues to grow, despite attempts to dissuade supporters from fighting to keep the professional service currently offered.

Local residents who had arranged a March and Read In to tie in with Save Our Libraries day on Saturday 5th February had no option but to cancel the organised event because of increasing demands by the Council. Undeterred, many library supporters still chose to mark the day. They came together and an unofficial march still took place from the top of Sanderstead Hill down to the library.

Those in the procession then joined others already at the library who were reading, borrowing books, petition signing, placard waving and chatting whilst children read or played in the gardens. The library was buzzing with activity, involving people of all ages. The supporters included local residents and those who had travelled some distance.

Trish Phillips, childrens author and illustrator, joined in the March and Read In on Saturday. Trish said, It is difficult to put into words how important libraries are; they are a vital link that we cannot be deprived of, the shared knowledge and inspiration that can help to mould each of us, the community base that binds us together. I am an author because of my love of books. I was inspired from an early age and spent many hours in libraries, as did my children. Sanderstead Library is an invaluable source of information and pleasure for me and my family. We don't just want our library to stay open, we need it to stay open. For us, for our children, and our childrens children.

An additional concern for local residents, and what sets Sanderstead apart from other areas involved in the Library consultation, is that they are being pushed to accept a shared model with volunteers as the only feasible option open to them.

The Residents Association has written to Council Chief Executive Jon Rouse, supposedly on behalf of Sanderstead residents, offering that the best way forward is a shared service with volunteers. The Association has even started to try to enlist volunteers. A volunteer model is also being actively pushed by the Sanderstead ward councillors, and they have not only leafleted every household in the ward pushing this solution but are actively seeking volunteers to take this idea forward.

But where are these volunteers? Local residents have been intent on seeking out the schools and groups that the Residents Association referred to in this letter who are keen to volunteer, yet no school or group has yet been found and the Residents Association are not willing to share the information. These volunteers are certainly not showing up at the library nor at any events nor making themselves known to those most actively defending the library.

It seems highly unlikely that any school would be in a position to offer volunteers to help run any library. Headteachers, governors and school staff have enough to contend with in regard to the complex demands placed upon them without volunteering to run our libraries too.

Local residents have forged links to show their support for their beloved library, to continue the fight to keep Sanderstead Library open, and to question and counter the push for residents to accept that the only hope available to them to achieve this is to volunteer and accept a shared service with Selsdon. Many feel that the volunteer model is unworkable, unsustainable and will create more problems in the long run. Others feel it will save little money and could result in providing a limited, sub-standard service rather than the professional service qualified staff now provide.

Many feel that it is unhelpful for residents to be led down one path in what would appear to be a joint effort by the Residents Association and Sanderstead ward councillors rather than to explore all options and listen to any ideas offered, as was the original intention of the consultation. Sanderstead residents struggle to get their voice heard, to protest against the proposed closure, to offer petitions easily, and even attempts at having a peaceful March and Read-In were impeded by the numerous hoops the named organisers were being asked to jump through. Sanderstead residents can only wonder if this is truly reflective of a Council that wants to hear their views and whether councillors are really fulfilling one of their key duties to be advocates of the residents they serve.
Sanderstead residents will keep fighting for their voice to be heard. They will continue to pull together as a community to try and save a vital, well-loved public service that they believe in.

Sanderstead library supporters champion their library!

Sanderstead residents turned out in force at a Public Meeting held at Sanderstead United Reformed Church on Wednesday 9th February 2011; the last of the Public Meetings regarding the Libraries Consultation being held across the borough.

The church was packed with over 250 residents who showed concern over the proposals and voiced unanimous support for saving Sanderstead Library from closure.
Cllr Sara Bashford who answered all the questions commented on the excellent turn out as giving a clear indication of the strength of feeling for the library. The focus of the questions and points made revolved around key issues.

There was much discussion about the need to keep the library open. The library is the heart of the community. It is not only for books but for accessing maps, research materials, and internet access.
Importantly it is the only point of contact for information for the community and the only council building available to residents locally. There are much valued activities for children and it meets the needs of more vulnerable groups in the community, the elderly and those with small children.

Residents questioned the notion of using volunteers. Many were clearly already aware that this was being actively promoted by Sanderstead Residents Association and the Sanderstead ward councillors. Strong opposition to this notion was voiced stating that it was immoral, unworkable and unsustainable. Others questioned whether it would really save much in the long run with the level of training and co ordination needed. All views opposing met with loud applause.

Many, including a local teacher, spoke out in support of the need for and value of maintaining a professional service, including supporting literacy and inspiring children and young adults.
The logistics of lugging heavy bulky books on several bus trips to and from libraries further afield was offered as a barrier for many, as was the cost of fares and restricted parking.
Sponsorships, private investment and other income generating ideas were shared as well as thoughts on how savings and efficiencies could be made in other areas.

All were pleased to have the opportunity to air their views and Cllr Bashford made clear her aim was to keep all libraries open. She assured the meeting that other cuts and efficiencies were being looked at and cutting libraries would be last on the list.

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