Hundreds demonstrated in Lambeth on Saturday 7 November against the council’s latest Library proposals.
The rally assembled at Tate Brixton Library and then marched to Tate South Lambeth Library in Vauxhall where the demonstrators handed over a petition signed by thousands opposed to the council’s plans to Cllr Jane Edbrooke, the cabinet member responsible for libraries.
The most contested section of the plans, connected to the council’s need to cut £4m from its cultural budget by 2018, affects Carnegie, Minet and Tate South Lambeth libraries, which are to be turned into multi-purpose community resources running gyms alongside book lending services.
Many of the speakers at the rally said that setting up health services inside libraries would prevent them from meeting the educational needs of the community and accused the council of “implementing Tories’ cuts”.
“We don’t have to accept the dumbing down that says going to a private gym is some kind of a cultural experience replacing what we need to feed our minds,” said Alison Higgs, ex-councillor in Lambeth and now lecturer at Open University.
“It is true, the central Tory government is making terrible cuts in local government funding,” said the organiser Tim O’Dell of Unison, the the public sector workers union. “But we elected a Labour local government, we would not expect that government to just pass those cuts on to the most vulnerable people. And that is what is happening. It is very much frontline services that are being cut.”
Ghania Boumazouna, who fled Algeria 21 years ago, joined the demonstration to show support for the libraries and their educational role. She told the Brixton Blog: “When I arrived here I could not speak English and I learned the language in the old Peckham library free ESOL course.”
She said that libraries had been important for her children, too: “I wanted them to be friends with books so they could learn the language properly. Now that we have refugees coming they need to learn the language in a safe place and libraries are perfect for it.”