Lambeth MP Kate Hoey has said that “even at this late stage” the council should change its priorities on the future of Tate South Lambeth Library (TSL).
The library is one of three in the borough that will be turned into gyms run by the council’s leisure provider GLL in plans to save money because of cuts in ventral government grants.
But it is also the leading library in the whole of the UK in the use of digital technology to help people with sight problems and will lose a new cutting-edge aid if the gym plan goes ahead.
The MP for Vauxhall said: “The choice of this library to be turned into a gym was purely on the basis of what the gym operators felt would be best for them – completely ignoring that this library has recognition all over the UK for the work it is doing for accessibility for everybody.
“To lose all this would be absolutely dreadful and there is no need for it. Lambeth could decide its priorities differently and I hope it will do that, even at this late stage.”
Kate Hoey was presenting a ground-breaking new Prodigi reading machine to the library. But it will be taken back by the anonymous benefactor providing it if the gym plan goes ahead.
She said: “Iʼm so impressed with the wonderful machinery thatʼs in this library to help people. The Prodigi is going to give a huge amount of pleasure.
“What a good idea for the benefactor to say to Lambeth: ‘Weʼre giving this – but youʼre not keeping it if you donʼt show that you value what is happening hereʼ.”
The new-version Prodigi is a video magnifier that gives immediate access to all printed material. Books, documents and magazines are magnified onto a screen or read aloud. It is the first of its kind in the UK.
It will be operated by Libraries for Everyone – a model for public libraries developed by Lambeth libraries and a community interest company, Vauxhall CIC, that is based on all library material being available to anyone – whatever their capability.
Kate Hoey was speaking at DTVIP (Digital Tuesdays for Visually Impaired People) – a free weekly session at TSL run by VCIC and library staff that trains people to use digital technology.
The anonymous benefactor said: “The work at Tate South Lambeth transforms the lives of some of the most isolated and disadvantaged people – those who can’t read, write or use the internet because of visual impairment or dyslexia. Libraries for Everyone/DTVIP makes access to books, computers and online information available to all. We are delighted to provide the Prodigi for this wonderful project.”
Christina Burnett of Vauxhall CIC, which set up Libraries for Everyone/DTVIP with Lambeth Libraries and Archives, said: “We’re thrilled to have the latest Prodigi machine to help people overcome the barriers to employment, information and internet access caused by visual impairment or dyslexia.
“This machine will restore independence and productivity to many who are currently excluded from the vital resources in public libraries.