Help save Bromley’s libraries

27 September 2015

Join local Green Vicky Devaney and campaign for Bromley Council to re-think its library policy.Local Green Vicky Devaney is campaigning for Bromley Council to re-think its library policy.

Vicky’s campaign has forced the council to re-open consultation on its proposals to cut funding for local libraries. Here’s her report on the campaign so far.

I joined the Green Party following the election in May. I was very disappointed in the results and felt, like many, I wanted to do something.

I went along to a post-election party and met Roisin Robertson from the Bromley and Bexley Green Party. She told me that Bromley Council has plans to cut the library services. The plans for the services are as follows:

  1.  Turn Bromley’s 6 smaller libraries (Burnt Ash, Mottingham, St Paul’s Cray, Hayes, Shortlands and Southborough) into community libraries - meaning the council would remove or dramatically reduce the funding for these libraries. The idea is that they are run and funded by volunteers.
  2. Privatise the remaining libraries.

I was appalled. My nearest library is Burnt Ash and I take my 3-year-old daughter there regularly as I cannot afford to keep her in books! She gets through dozens every month.

My main and immediate concern was with the idea of farming out the libraries to volunteers. Who would these miraculous people be? Why would they offer to work for free and if they did, how would they raise the funds? And how sustainable is this model? Is this the beginning of the end for Bromley’s libraries?

The answer is that it isn’t a sustainable model, although sadly, it is happening all over the country. In Lewisham, the amount of books issued per person has reduced by 78% within the first year of the council handing them over to volunteers. In Manchester, visitor numbers plummeted by 90% since being volunteer-run.

I took to the streets and started a Facebook campaign specifically to help the 6 small libraries as these seemed to be in immediate danger. After a couple of weeks I had connected with other Bromley residents with similar concerns. Many of them agreed to get signatures and in less than a month we had over 1,700 hard copy signatures and over 1,200 online signatures, far exceeding Bromley Council’s minimum number of signatures required to be able to present the case at a council meeting.

So, I will attend the council meeting on 7pm on Monday 19th October in the Council Chamber at the Civic Centre. I will give a five minute speech to try and persuade the members of the council to change their minds. If you are free and want to come along to support the cause, please come along.

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