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Officer’s report recommends closure of five Lewisham Libraries. Four groups apply to take over Sydenham Library

A report to be presented to the Mayor and Cabinet meeting on 17 February recommends closing five Lewisham libraries, including Sydenham, from 28 May 2011. The report requests Lewisham officers to pursue the potential for asset transfer to deliver community library services in the affected neighbourhoods. The five threatened libraries are Sydenham, Grove Park, Crofton Park, Blackheath and New Cross.

Expressions of interest in running Sydenham library have been received from:

Exam Success Eduction Centre Limited. This company provides tutorial support to children who need help with their school and homework. They would use the library building to host pre- school and after school clubs for children and would employ local residents with the relevant skills and training to work at the centre. A library service would remain within the building sitting alongside the learning environment.

Eco Computer Systems. A social enterprise company which offers IT recycling and refurbishment services, and reinvests profits into the business or uses them to fund other community projects. ECS currently support and run the new community library at Pepys Resource Centre.  ECS will ensure continuing library services in all 4 libraries, but will also offer a community café, office space, meeting rooms, IT training and local history centres. The library service will be professionally staffed and additional educational/cultural activities will be offered alongside it. They will work closely in partnership with other local groups and library users to ensure that the facilities are fully utilised and sustainably funded. They are already in contact with a number of local organisations with a view to developing local working partnerships, including Sydenham Community Radio, Healthy Brockley, 170 Club and Grove Park Community Group.

John Laing Integrated Services Ltd. This is a leading support services and facilities management business providing a full suite of operational services to public sector clients, spanning Libraries, local authority, education, rail, police, housing, health, waste and parks.  They currently manage and deliver public libraries on behalf of a local authority, together with their leisure and culture portfolio in the London Borough of Hounslow. They want to discuss different building uses provided they benefit the community and attract sufficient revenue through grants or service fees.

SociaCapita Solutions. SociaCapita Solutions is a Community Interest Company which has been set up to carry out a cluster of activities, including bidding for public sector contracts on behalf of private sector and third sector delivery organisations, acquiring and developing residential and commercial properties and unwanted public assets into a sustainable hub of community, social, cultural and enterprising activities delivering a range of social and community benefits. They propose to develop the buildings into an integrated Community Heritage and Enterprise Development Hub supported by a local community web-based portal and a local digital community radio or television channel. Each building will encompass various functions including cultural resources linked to black and ethnic heritage, construction related training, residential units and a range of enterprise and organisation support activities.  They will work with the Library and Information Service to offer access to cultural material in both print and electronic form.

The report considers the alternative of maintaining the current number of buildings but with reduced hours. However, the report rejects this option since it would mean a cut in 36% of total library hours throughout the borough.  Annex 2 of the report, gives an illustrative example of  what could happen under this alternative – Forest Hill library hours would be cut from 66 hours per week to 29 hours per week , Sydenham from 30 hours per week to 12 hours per week and New Cross from 25.5 hours per week to 14 hours per week.

Read the full report here:  library report