Some residents seem to believe that Minet and Carnegie Libraries have closed permanently. This is not the case, so we wanted to correct this impression.
The Minet Library closed temporarily on Friday 1 April 2016, although access to the archives will remain. It will re-open as a neighbourhood library service in 2017, with books, computers and study space. The council has also partnered with Greenwich Leisure Limited, a social enterprise, who will provide health and fitness facilities in the building.
Carnegie Library also temporarily closed on 1 April, and plans for it to re-open as a neighbourhood library service in the building alongside health and fitness facilities run by Greenwich Leisure Limited are being developed.
I'm sure most residents understand that public services have to change because of austerity. In Lambeth we have decided that rather than closing services, we want to change the way we do things. That does not mean everything is up for grabs - we have clear commitments:
- Much has been made of us closing libraries, but the reality is that we are defending 10 Lambeth libraries. There are ten libraries now and ten in the future.
- Overall, Lambeth libraries will be open longer and book stocks will be protected.
- We will not lose our ambition to improve: we have committed to two new libraries in the coming years, recently built a new Clapham library and we have refurbished Streatham & Brixton.
Both Minet and Carnegie will have permanent staff on site who will be looking after the whole building, including library, community space and gym areas.
The promise for Carnegie in particular is:
- That it will reopen in 2017 and will remain free and open for all.
- The gym will be housed in the unused basement.
- The rest of the building will occupy the same community space, including a library service and we can extend the opening hours from the current 31 to 70 hours per week.
- The building will be fully staffed at all times and dedicated library staff will be on site regularly.
The Leader of the Council, Lib Peck, has said that she accepts that Lambeth Council has made these changes more difficult than they needed to be: by not acting quickly enough to work with, and relocate, existing user groups; and by not communicating effectively enough that the library was not closing permanently, nor simply turning into a gym.
But the occupation means that we are spending money on security and court hearings that should instead be spent on services. It would be much better if residents and the friends groups could work with the Council and the Trust on making the Carnegie a community hub for all. If we could have such
cooperation regarding Minet and Carnegie, we could have library and other community services operating out of these buildings that match all our ambitions.