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Monday, 28 January 2013

Croydon still paying for library they tried desperately to ditch!

It has been announced by Lambeth Council that they will take over responsibility for the 112-year-old Upper Norwood Library in a deal with Croydon Council which they claim will safeguard its future. The library had been threatened with closure.

The library had been jointly funded by both councils. Croydon Council's decision to cut its contribution by £100,000 provoked a strong reaction from the local community and the situation has been carefully monitored by Upper Norwood Library Campaign.

Lambeth Council state that under the agreement Croydon Council will transfer to the library building, staff, and agreed budgets to Lambeth. Lambeth in turn will work with the community-led steering group Upper Norwood Joint Campaign whose aim is to create a new trust which will run the library as “a publicly-funded, professionally staffed service”.

The deal has been welcomed by Lambeth’s Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure, Councillor Sally Prentice.

Cllr Prentice said,
 “I am delighted that Lambeth have been able to save Upper Norwood Library from closure. It’s fantastic news for local residents and guarantees the future of this library which is held in high regard by the community. 
While councils up and down the country are closing libraries, in Lambeth we have protected our libraries and are investing over £7 million in new services, working side by side with the community.”
The detail of the agreement is being negotiated and the transfer of assets from Croydon to Lambeth is scheduled to take place over the next few months.

Lambeth will contribute £170,000 a year to the running of the library.

Although Croydon has always maintained that Lambeth were in the wrong and that it was Lambeth that broke the joint agreement it is interesting to note that Croydon Council has agreed to provide an annual contribution of £75,000, for the next two years, renewable under a three-year funding agreement.

It is doubtful that Croydon would pay a penny more than they were contractually bound to pay.

Money to burn on gloss

Why would Croydon redecorate libraries immediately before they plan to hand them over to John Laing Integrated Services (JLIS) and why are they being shut for such lengthy periods in order to do the redecoration in libraries that have been left neglected for so many years?

JLIS will be responsible for the redecoration and upkeep in all but a few of our libraries in the future if they are awarded the contract.

Details of closures are as follows:

Bradmore Green Library

Closing 4pm Saturday 2 February
Re-opening 9.30am Monday 18 February

Coulsdon Library

Closing 4pm Saturday 2 March.
Re-opening 9am Tuesday 2 April

Purley Library

Closing 4pm Saturday 2 February
Re-opening 9am Monday 4 March

Sanderstead Library

Closing 4pm Saturday 2 March
Re-opening 9am Tuesday 2 April

Shirley Library

Closing 4pm Saturday 2 March
Re-opening 9am Monday 25 March

South Norwood Library

closing 4pm Saturday 23 February
Re-opening 9am Monday 11 March

How much money must Croydon burn before the 5th April?

Money that could have been used for essential services.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Wake Up New Addo!

Croydon's New Addington Library is back in the news but the 'facts' and even the headline are seriously questionable. You can read the full article here, entitled,  "Council promises no loss of books as New Addington library moves from 'derelict' site"

Let's look at the facts:


"NEW Addington's library will have the same number of, or more, books when it moves to the Calat Centre, the council has promised."
The article also adds.
"Council bosses had been unable to guarantee stock levels or space at the relocated library, leaving users fearing they would be left with just a few shelves of books. But a council spokesman told the Advertiser: "Its stock levels will be maintained for borrowing or using on site."

This fails to mention that the stock now held is hugely reduced in comparison with stock held even a year ago. Books were boxed up and sold off, leaving row after row of bare or near bare shelving.  In some branches shelving and book stands were even removed to try to mask how depleted the stock had become. This was reported here and on

Space and facilities

"It will be housed across two floors of the centre in Central Parade, taking up roughly the same floor space – 400 square metres – as it does now."
The existing building is a single floor building with easy access, large windows offering natural light and a view overlooking grassed areas. The library is open plan, allowing flexible use of space and is for the sole us of the library service. You can visit this 'derelict' building, which is no the worse for wear than it has been for many years, still offering a spacious, warm, dry, purpose built space to read, study and research, before the council shuts it, that is!

The CALAT building has had to be extensively modified in order to incorporate the library, meaning greatly reduced offering of Adult Education classes such as basic Literacy and Numeracy courses, IT and the removal of essential facilities, such as back wash sinks in a purpose built room, where very popular vocational courses in hair and beauty were run in the past.

Travel to other centres for vocational and basic educational courses is a huge barrier to many New Addington residents as this requires finding not only the fare to travel but the added time to do so and often the added problem of childcare on top of this, making the additional cost prohibitive.

The library will share the space not only with the CALAT classes but the Job Centre, a nursery, an ICT suite and admin/office areas. Those who know the building well question how the CALAT Centre will be transformed into a tardis to afford the new library facility anything like the spacious area that the current library now occupies.

Additional benefits

The article states that,
"A considerable amount of new stock will be added after consultation, which has been held."
More stock will only replace the stock removed. With Croydon's record on consultations it is questionable how many of the suggestions offered will have been genuinely considered.  Who knew of this consultation? The consultation was not even adequately advertised and dates conflicted. Three months on and still no outcome advertised.

And, the article goes on to add,
"The library will have longer opening hours and refreshments facilities."
Well the CALAT building is already open longer hours as courses are run in the evening.  There is no mention of staffing and Laing will, no doubt, install self-service machines. Is this really a plus?  If access is a plus why has Croydon not made the extremely underused ICT suite in the CALAT Centre available to the public years ago, given the high demand for the computers in the existing library?

And we get refreshments! Well if a couple of vending machines is a selling point Croydon council really are showing their contempt for New Addington residents. These could have been installed in the existing library many years ago if this is what was needed or desired.  By all accounts received, the existing vending machines, housing chocolate bars and snacks has not been replenished for some time.

With many food and beverage outlets offering a choice of well-priced, fresh goods in the parade of shops opposite is there really any demand for pre-packed mechanically-dispensed junk-food items?

The unwitting accomplices

New Addington Pathfinders, a community group, have been used as a pawn in this shambles. Whilst championing the importance of the library for the estate they are taken in by council spin. They have assured residents that anything could be ordered in, failing to realise that DVDs and the like could not, and that any book items ordered incurred a charge.

They readily accept without question that a building that the residents still use is, in fact, derelict, yet have remained silent on the matter for years. They are just thankful that the estate, one of the most deprived areas of Croydon, is not losing the library facility totally!

Whilst more affluent and/or proactive areas such as Old Coulsdon, Norbury, Upper Norwood and Sanderstead are well-represented by local groups,(even if failed by their Residents' Associations in some cases; Sanderstead's in particular!) Pathfinders have given up the fight for essential facilities to serve a community ill-equipped to fight the battle for themselves as simply existing, finding work or putting food on the table are higher priority.  The fact that the council plays on the silence of this community because of their vulnerability is sickening.

Wake Up New Addington! You need to stand up to be heard.

Anyone is welcome to post on this blog or get in touch, in confidence.

Croydon stand united on libraries. Be part of the fight back!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Increasing the cost of running libraries - So #Croydon

It is shameful that £250K was wasted on a procurement process that sees Croydon awarding the libraries contract to JLIS, a subsidiary of John Laing, but the farce does not end there.

The procurement process was sold to residents as a way of saving money, by working with Wandsworth, therefore offering economies of scale. Laing  is  a company that is already heavily involved in Croydon, including the building of the shiny new council HQ, which Croydon council  insists is being built at nil cost, and a £450m regeneration scheme.  The truth is exposed as various deals are already coming unstuck. If you want further details Inside Croydon covers this issue extensively.

But Wandsworth appointed GLL, a not-for-profit company with some expertise in running libraries, employing experienced librarians to oversee the provision.  They were chosen as they offered 'best value for money' - their tender representing not only the lowest price of the short-listed bidders but also realising the highest score in evaluations.

As Cllr Timothy Godfrey points out, the deal stuck in Croydon will not realise any saving. In fact it will cost Croydon more than offering the contract to GLL or continuing the management of libraries in house, to the tune of a cool £4m over the life of the contract and no economies of scale realised.

The shocking figures for Croydon libraries were released in the recent CIPFA data, where back office costs, long identified as a huge barrier to the efficient and cost-effective running of Croydon libraries, are exposed as completely out of all proportion with any well run library service. This is no news to campaigners or the Labour opposition in Croydon as this was highlighted early on as a reason to reconsider the procurement process not only by Labour's Godfrey but by Tim Coates, who attended a shadow cabinet meeting and presented the stark facts to all in attendance, including the then Conservative lead on libraries Cllr 'Booktoken' Bashford.

Given this, it is unbelievable that Croydon would plump for a more expensive deal with Laing than to tackle the problem that they created in the efficient running of Croydon libraries or opting to let GLL run services, jointly with Wandsworth, at least excusable as it is cheaper and better than what is already on offer.

Thanks to Private Eye for covering the story - Issue 1331, available in all good newsagents.
Private Eye - page 28 of Issue 1331 - 11 January - 24 Jan. 2013

So we have a greatly reduced spec, no economies of scale and a hugely inflated cost to Croydon, in order to outsource our libraries to Laings (JLIS). 

You really couldn't make it up!

Teen Events in #Croydon Libraries

Teen activities have floundered in many Croydon libraries in the past year.  Part of the problem, we suspect, is that the staff are in certain libraries infrequently so not engaging with the youth in that library to pass the details on. Additionally advertising has been erratic; frequently events have been advertised poorly, without date and time information.

It is a shame as these were once very popular. They offer the ideal opportunity for teens to get together with other teens in their area.  We've asked to be sent details but the council will not provide us with a listing of dates. 

So, for 2013 we will be seeking out the details to pass on to you.  If there is an event you know of please pass it on to us by emailing

If you know of places where events are listed please let us know so we can advertise them.

And if you attend an event and would like to write a review please send us details and we will publish your work on this site.

Here are the listings for January, 2013:

Teen Reading Groups

Shirley Library: Thurs 24 January, 4.30-5.30pm
South Norwood Library: Sat 26 January, 3-4pm

Young Writers’ Groups

Thornton Heath Library: Mon 14 January, 4.30-5.30pm
Selsdon Library: Sat 19 January, 3-4pm
Thornton Heath Library: Mon 28 January, 4.30-5.30pm

Manga Groups

(limited places – book in advance at library)

Central Library: Sat 12 January, 3-4pm
Purley Library: Sat 19 January, 2-4pm

‘Figure of Speech’ Drama Club 

(limited places – book in advance at library)

Thornton Heath Library: Fri 11 January, 5.30-6.30pm
Thornton Heath Library: Fri 18 January, 5.30-6.30pm
Thornton Heath Library: 25 January, 5.30-6.30pm

If you know of any other event not listed please let us know!

We are busy hunting down details of the MyVoice project running in Croydon libraries.  This  project is supported by The Reading Agency. We'll let you know as soon as we find out!