Tel: 020 8852 4032 Email: [email protected]

March 2011



17th February Mayor and Cabinet decide to recommend that five libraries should be closed
1st March The full Council voted to close the libraries
28th May 2011 The libraries are due to close

BVLUG steering group is very sorry to tell you that, on March 1st 2011, Lewisham Council voted through a budget which means, amongst other cuts, the closure of Blackheath Village Library and four other libraries. To say the least, the decision is very disappointing for users and for the library staff, some of whom will be made redundant on 28th May.

Please let your local councillors and MPs know how you feel about it.

Lewisham’s next step - Groups to run services in the library buildings

The Mayor then instructed officers “between now and the 28th May” to seek detailed bids from groups wishing to run services in the affected libraries and report the outcome in due course to Mayor & Cabinet. 13 groups have expressed interest in various of the five libraries.

Three groups have expressed an interest affecting Blackheath Village Library:-

1) Exam Success Education Centre Limited: (interest in Blackheath , New Cross and Sydenham Libraries)
2) Lewisham Music Service: (interest in Blackheath, New Cross, Sydenham, Crofton Park, and Grove Park Libraries)
3) Age Exchange (interest in Blackheath only) see information below.

We know nothing of what the first two groups propose, but some information is available on ideas for the Age Exchange – see below.

For information about the other four libraries please get in touch with their support groups:-

Crofton Park Library [email protected]
Grove Park Library [email protected]
New Cross Library [email protected]
Sydenham Library
Save Sydenham Library Campaign ([email protected])

Back to Blackheath Village Library

Age Exchange (AE) has over several months expressed an interest in developing a library facility as part of the Reminiscence Centre building. We do not know whether this would include employing a qualified librarian.

AE has indicated to the Council the level of funding they would need for the project and would want the Council to contribute to some of the cost. Discussions have taken place with Council officers to that effect.

Age Exchange would need, however, to submit a formal application for support following the Council's agreement to the budget on March 1st. This will be evaluated alongside applications to take over running the other library buildings. A report will then be presented to Mayor & Cabinet before 28th May 2011 with a view to recommending a potential way forward for each of the five libraries.

The Council has indicated that some one-off transitional costs may be required to develop the community library services. The precise level of funding and budget source will be identified through the procurement process and it is likely to be different for each library.

The Future - if things proceed according to the Council’s wishes

Our present library building is due to close on 28th May 2011.

BVLUG - will hold a general meeting in the Bakehouse on the 17th May 6 to 8pm at which there will be proposals about
1) The winding up of BVLUG (in terms of our Constitution) and the use of our remaining funds.
2) The establishment of a new group to represent the users of whatever takes the place of Blackheath Village Library. Volunteers might like to register an interest in joining this group.

Please come to our meeting, even if you can’t make the 6pm start. It is sad to lose our library’s home but we want to celebrate or commemorate (according to your mood) the eleven years in our present building gained after a fierce battle with the Council in 1999. We hope to cheer each other up and find how we can make the best of what we are left with.

The Council will still have a lease on the present library building and we will try to find more about what proposals there are for it's use. Some members of the BVLUG Committee have frequently raised the question of why the Council has not done more about renting out the upstairs rooms – a measure which might have helped to keep the library downstairs open. We have never received an answer.

They locked the Library doors on Saturday 19th February - Carnival against Cuts Day

The notice on the library shutters said:- “Due to the expected protests around the borough and the potential impact on services, visitors and staff, we have reluctantly decided to close the library today”. A big police vehicle sat outside - as if the day wasn’t miserable enough!

Far from rallying “protesters” our banner was a meeting point for piqued library users and for Cllr Kevin Bonavia who had not been told about the closure and showed admirable lateral thinking by holding his regular, advertised, surgery by our banner in front of the fish and chip shop. Three BVLUG members, two children and three other adults dripped and shivered and listened to complaints.

We tried standing.

Deciding late to join the “Carnival against Cuts” in Lewisham put us second banner from front in the procession. It turned out to be warming and cheerful, very funny and noisy and positive. Some wonderful people carried the banner for us. Losing a battle isn’t the end of the war for the library!

Libraries closed again on 1st of March while the Council voted to shut five of them. Catford library doors were locked and a sign advised those with “an urgent or pre appointment” to use a rear door. One would-be library user who went there was told he should 'come back tomorrow', though in fact the library re-opened about an hour later.

Legal Action
On 18th February, the day after the Mayor of Lewisham announced his decision to recommend to the Council the closure of 5 libraries, Pat and Peter Richardson of the Manor House group wrote to Mr Ed Vaizey M.P., Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries. They pointed out that the Secretary of State had already told the many residents of Lewisham, who asked for his intervention, that he would await Lewisham’s budget decision.

On 25th February they wrote to Mr Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Culture etc, making a formal complaint that the Borough Council, being a ‘library authority’ for the purposes of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 is failing in its statutory duty under the Act to provide a 'comprehensive and efficient Library Service’. They have asked Mr Hunt to use his powers under the Act to investigate the Borough's failure, and the way in which it reached its decision. This letter was written on the basis of advice being provided free of charge by lawyers. What happens next will depend on Mr Hunt's reply.

Around the country, other groups faced with library closures are also being given free legal help and some are taking their own action.
Ask Anne Bennet, (020 8852 2841 or [email protected]) if you want to know more about this.

Reading Group 7th April and 12th May

The book for discussion on Thursday 7th April (6.30) is "Remarkable Creatures" by Tracy Chevalier.

There is a change of date for the May meeting. The group will meet on the 12th May because the 5th is Referendum Day and the library will be used as a polling station.

Referendum on the voting system used to elect MPs to the House of Commons

Thursday 5th May - the library building will be used for voting and we presume will be closed for normal library business. The Referendum question is on whether we want the 'alternative vote' system to be used instead of the 'First Past the Post' system.
For more information on how the systems compare “Google” AV Alternative Vote.

And we tried marching – the 19th February Carnival

Lest we forget


Anne Bennet, for BVLUG