What is happening?
In November 2020 Croydon Council announced that they wish to close 5 of Croydon’s 13 libraries: South Norwood (both sites), Shirley, Broad Green, Bradmore Green and Sanderstead. After the huge backlash during stage 1 of the consultation they have taken closure off the table. But options put forth in stage 2 of the consultation all include inadequate staffing, now across all libraries in the borough, so again they are not acceptable and we are fighting them.
Croydon Council's library spend per head BEFORE the cuts
Why is this happening?
Croydon council has declared bankruptcy (a section 114 notice) in 2020, and now have to fill a £67 million budget shortfall. Cuts are being made across the borough to all services, with the library service (already funded below average) being decimated.
The reasons Croydon Council came to this point are complicated:
Central government underfunding has played a large part. (Central government gives £200 more per head to Lambeth Council than they do to Croydon.)
Croydon council then decided to make a number of investments to get extra revenue streams. These included:
Giving £200 million of funding to their property development company Brick by Brick
Buying Collonades Leisure Park for £53 million
Buying Croydon Park Hotel for £29.8 million
Buying Selcon and Allicance Healthcare buildings for £14 million
Croydon Council have decided to save £500,000 per year by closing 5 of our 13 libraries (40%). If this sounds like a small savings in comparison to the large benefits of our public libraries, it is.
There is another reason closing libraries is appealing to a council with financial difficulties: these 5 library buildings also exist in buildings and sit on land that can be sold off to help the council’s financial problems.
Croydon Council has identified £47.5 million in property assets that they can sell and
“The key area of consideration is focused around libraries.”
– Paper, Croydon Council Scruity Committee, 9/2/21.
Visits to South Norwood Library 2019/20
Books Borrowed from South Norwood Library in 2019/20
Hours of computer time used in South Norwood Library 2019/20
Why South Norwood’s Library is essential
It is a safe space we don’t have to spend money in to access
It brings together our community – from baby rhyme time to homework space, people accessing council services, applying for jobs or learning computer skills
It fights digital inequality giving everyone free access to computers and wifi for study, job applications, and quiet homeworking space
It fights income inequality, helping all members of our community access information about council services, health information, learning and job opportunties
It creates readers, and reading not only promotes better mental health but gives more life opportunities
It is going to help our community exit covid-lockdown – if we still have a library at the end of this
"The link between poverty and digital exclusion is clear: if you are poor, you have less chance of being online."
This is something we’ve all heard more about during the pandemic – with benefits, jobs and health information going online, those in our community who can’t afford or don’t have the skills to access things online are discriminated against.
South Norwood library has the highest computer usage figures in Croydon except for Central Library – this is a reflection of the digital poverty in our area. 40% of students at one local secondary school did not have a computer to do online learning on during the first lockdown. Our library is essential to fight this inequality and give everyone equal opportunities.
The removal of services from an area where ethnic minorities are concentrated
Closing South Norwood library is the very definition of systemic rascism – closing essential amenities in an area with a high number of Black Carribean residents: 35% of the South Norwood community identify as Black Carribean, compared to an average of 5% across Croydon and 1% of the UK population.
- South Norwood is in top 18% of socially deprived areas in the UK
– South Norwood in top 10% of income deprivation in UK
28% of children
Percentage in South Norwood living in poverty (UK average 19%, London average 28%)
Why are professional library workers essential?
A room with a box of books does not make a library. The purpose of a library is to give access to information. That means having trained staff with the skills to open those doors.
They have a depth of knowledge about the book stock and the digital resources that allows them to guide users
Their experience allows them to recognize and meet the needs of users of all kinds
They choose the stock and display books in the library that reflect the community and encourage a love of reading
They run events like rhyme time and the summer reading challenge to guide children to a love of reading
They help those needing to use computers who have no experience
They use their expertise to give the community access to over 6 million books through the London libraries consortium
They have the professional training to assist those who are prescribed books by their GP
They have an enhanced DBS check and often first aid training
To find out more read this article on professional library workers from the Save Croydon Libraries campaign.
Why a community-run library will not work for South Norwood
Croydon Council insists the only option for South Norwood is a “cost neutral” (ie no financial contribution from the council) community-run library, so no professional library workers or access to the book stock of the rest of Croydon’s libraries.
• Many volunteer-run libraries struggle to open regularly – one community-run library that opens for just 6 hours a week had to close 3 times in 3 months due to no volunteers
• Community libraries almost exclusively work in areas with large numbers of wealthy, retired residents to volunteer. This is NOT South Norwood’s community. We have below-average numbers of retirees and well above average numbers of young families working full time to make ends meet.
• Community libraries struggle to afford decent book stock, and donated books are rarely the books that the library actually needs.
• Volunteer staff have a large turn over (because peoples’ lives change) and need time-consuming organization and training, so there is no continuity for library users
It is a statutory duty for Croydon Council to provide our community with a library service – as recently as 2018 South Norwood library was called "ESSENTIAL" in the council’s own report.
Our South Norwood
An amazing community largely forgotten for decades by the wider borough but not by its own residents who have:
• Taken over Stanley Halls and turned it into an amazing arts venue
• Set up South Norwood Community Kitchen to look after our most vulnerable
• Created Screen25 our own independent cinema
• Run our own South Norwood Community Festival
Our community is massively diverse and we rely on our few remaining free, safe community spaces.