The reality of Lewisham’s independent libraries

You know I’m running this Literary Festival, right? Lots of events round Lewisham, some in libraries, some free events for kids – and some in other venues where we have to pay to hire them, and insure them, and many other myriad administrative costs, and in all cases pay the travel costs of the authors (who are appearing for free) so there’s a small entry fee of £4. Any money left over will either go back to Lewisham Council to repay their grant, or go to the Mizen Foundation or Hither Green Community Hall and Arts Society to plough back into other community events.

A friend is spending this morning taking posters round Brockley. She went into the newly independent Crofton Park Library – sold off to ECO Computer Systems earlier in the year and now renamed as Crofton Community Hub. They wanted a fee to put up the poster, their rationale being that since we were charging for some events, they would charge us to publicise it.

I’d like to take a moment to say that even Tesco didn’t charge me for putting up a poster on their community board.

I called Crofton Community Hub / Library to explain that we’re non profit making and, you know, a LITERARY FESTIVAL. It turns out that somewhere in the Library there is a poster for the Festival that they got via the Council’s brilliant Artspost service (drop off posters and leaflets once a month and they deliver them to 100 venues round the borough for free). But when a member of the community came in to try to publicise a highly relevant, non-profit-making, community event, they wanted to charge. Because they now have to fund themselves, so they have to make money somehow.  And they wanted to make some from us when we dropped in without the weight of the Council’s backing. (They didn’t tell my friend that a poster was already up, btw, Correction: my friend spotted that they had the small flyer up on the wall and suggested that since they were already advertising it, why not take the full colour A4? They were rather flustered and she couldn’t be bothered with the, no doubt extremely painful, circular discussion that was about to ensue. And I can sympathise; my phone call was confusingly and distractingly circular as it was.)

So there you have it. A community hub that’s less community minded than Tesco, or any of the other local businesses who have happily displayed our posters. That’s what’s become of our sold-off libraries.

Edit: I just saw a quote from Darren Taylor, MD of ECO Computer Systems, on the aforelinked to post on alternativeSE4:

“We’re here to work with the community. Books and library services will be at the heart of what we do here in Crofton Park, as well as expanding the range of activities and services to residents.”

Oh, Darren.

Edit the second: Darren Taylor’s been in touch – here are the salient points of his emails (my bolding):

I am sure we can accommodate you with a poster at Crofton Park Community Library. We get so many people asking to put posters up in all the libraries… We are for the community and sometimes my staff may make a mistake, doesn’t everyone.

We are only three months old, so always learning and improving. I will inform staff about posters policies, we have not dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s yet. Local community will be free. We do have to make money, and you are right that this is not the right way.

Could you promote how people can drop their old computers and books into the library, because this is what pays for all the costs of the libraries. We have had over 160 children doing the summer reading challenge over the holidays, and we have been training seniors on how to use computers. At Sydenham we moved loads of the shelving to accommodate an art exhibition.

So there you have it folks! Whether this was a policy clarification or a backtrack, local community events won’t be charged for publicity in Deptford, Sydenham, Crofton Park and Grove Park libraries. If this (very minor) social media storm has helped them sort out their promotions policy then I think it done a good thing. And that reminds me – I have an ancient printer and PC hanging about the flat that need getting rid of…

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2 responses to “The reality of Lewisham’s independent libraries

  1. NeilM August 28, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    It doesn’t surprise me at all. This so-called Independent Library idea originates from the Tories., and should remember that generally speaking Tories don’t like anything from which they cannot make lots of money, and generally they don’t care how they make that money, or who they take the money from.

  2. Everyone calm down August 30, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Make a sentence out of the following words: “teacup”, “in”, “storm” and “a”.

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