This post was first published by My London on 10/05/2019.
Croydon Council considers using volunteers to run some of its libraries
But it says it is committed to keeping them all open in some form.
Could some libraries in Croydon be run entirely by volunteers, moved to new locations or even closed completely as funding cuts bite in the borough?
This was the crucial question put to Croydon Council’s cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport, Councillor Oliver Lewis after a presentation at Tuesday night’s (May 7) cabinet meeting.
But he said the council is committed to keeping libraries open and is spending more money on books and refurbishing the borough’s 13 libraries over a ten-year period.
Adding: “Last year we brought the library service in house and we have increased the book fund by 9%
“Our Libraries Plan works over a longer period and we have a commitment to refurbish all of our 13 libraries over 10 years.”
Relocating, redeveloping or reconfiguring
The questions came about because of a report put together by external consultants, RedQuadrant, which outlines all the council’s possible options for its libraries.
It states that there is the option of “relocating, redeveloping or reconfiguring the libraries” to “better serve their communities”.
It also explains what the council would gain from closing libraries altogether and says it would “maximise savings” but would mean a reduction of services to residents as well as “adverse public reaction.”
The report states that volunteer-run libraries could be an option for “local libraries” which are in Bradmore Green, Broad Green, Sanderstead and Shirley.
The report adds: “These will provide a basic library function and in some of our options are suitable for partial or full operation by volunteers.”
It adds that if some libraries were entirely staffed by volunteers there could be savings of up to £67,000 for the council.
The report says the case for relocating libraries is that it could result in a more even distribution of them and focus more on areas where more people live.
It states the strengths of redeveloping and reconfiguring existing libraries includes making sure the library “remains at the heart of the community” while offering an “improved service”. But a weakness of this would be investing in buildings which aren’t necessarily in the best location.
The report has raised serious concerns for some
Conservative spokeswoman for culture, leisure and sport, Councillor Helen Pollard, said at the meeting: “The RedQuadrant review did raise some questions.
“You talk about keeping the libraries open but there is talk about moving some, some being redeveloped and some being run entirely by volunteers.”
Mr Lewis could not confirm whether any of the options would become a reality for any of the libraries in Croydon.
But he did hint that the council is looking to employ more volunteers to keep libraries running.
He said: “We are keen to see more volunteers in all of our libraries. It is a great thing for young people and older people to do and it is a great thing to supplement our valued staff.
“We do have limited resource and we want to make our libraries more flexible and open for longer. Volunteers do play a vital role.”
What plans do we already know about?
Cllr Lewis added that a new South Norwood Library will be “more accessible” than the current five floor building.
A new single floor library will be built as part of a Brick by Brick project which includes three buildings of more than 100 homes, including one 17-storey tower.
The £500,000 new library will be on the ground floor of the development and is described as ‘flexible community space’.
There are also currently plans to refurbish Norbury Library in the pipeline.
On Saturday (May 11) there will be an open day at the library in Beatrice Avenue from 11am-3pm where people can find out more about the plans.