Monday, April 04, 2011

Future of New Cross Library

This received today from

'The Council have announced the closure of New Cross Library for 28th May, at the same time they also continued an apparently open process of bidding to take over the library. However, in reality, they had already made their mind up about who was going to take them over. Darren Taylor is a ‘social entrepreneur’ who has been running a kind of library on the Pepys estate in Deptford for a few months subsidised by his computer recycling firm Eco Computers, he offered to take on 4 of the libraries due for closure.

There are many problems with this deal but to sum up he seems to be prepared to allow the council to provide no financial contribution to the running of the library or making the repairs that are needed after the years of neglect, it’s not exactly clear who would actually hold the lease and it allows the council to continue with its plan to make librarians redundant. He also seems ready to allow the council to continue to use the basement of the building for storage, rather than making this available for community use.

All these things can easily be improved as the next best deals for the council must have cost them tens of thousands of pounds per year. It’s also a pretty shoddy way to transfer such an important asset with little or no community involvement and has a whiff of paternalistic victorian philanthropy about it.

On the positive side the suggested governance structure allows members of the community to run the library pretty much as they see fit, there will be one paid library manager, the library will be open twice as much as it was and all he wants in return for his ‘gift’ of approx £20k PA from eco computers is that the library becomes a drop off point for people to leave old computers for him to recycle. Although the deal has all but been done, the next few weeks will see negotiations in which the all important details are finalised.

The question is - should we get involved in the final negotiations to improve the deal and make it work for the community, let it happen but don't support it or actively oppose it and try to stop the deal? We intend to discuss and decide this at 7pm All Saints Community Centre, 105 New Cross Road (junction with Monson Road) on Monday 11th April'.

Interesting update - would like to know more about the New Cross library deal - presumably whoever's running it is expecting Lewisham to pay the salary of the manager, or is the whole project going to be subsidised from the profits of Eco Computers? As an ex-librarian my concern is as much for the library staff as for keeping the building open - as I've said before a good library is about skilled workers not just books. Also has Lewisham now officially abandoned plans for a new library in Briant Street, promised once upon a time as part of the New Deal for New Cross?


Anonymous said...


We have just submitted an offer for lewisham community sports to run libraries.

Please send them an email and we can send you more details

bob said...

I hadn't realised that EcoComputers are bidding for both NX and Crofton Park, as well as the community library they run on the Pepys in what was the Resource Centre. Can they really stretch so far? Does anyone know anything about them?

People who have heard from Darren Taylor seem to be impressed, but I am always suspicious at the words "social enterprise" and I am also very divided on how much we should be going along with the privatisation process, which seems to be what is happening.