Thanks to Brockley Central for the heads-up on this – Greenwich Council is teaming up with Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark in a scheme called Future Libraries, which, according to the press release, “aims to help the library service during the current challenging financial situation, with an ambition to ensure libraries play a central role for communities in the Big Society”. Whatever that means.
The seven boroughs, making up all of south-east London and a bit more besides, will work together on finding ways to save money and “greater connection with other local services and an ambition for services to be designed around the needs of the public, rather than based on organisational boundaries”.
It’s worth putting this into the context that Brockley Central puts it into – Lewisham’s plans to close five libraries, at Blackheath Village, New Cross, Crofton Park, Grove Park and Sydenham. On one hand, it could be very easy to for Lewisham to turn around to Blackheath Village Library users and say “right, we’re working with Greenwich now, so trot across the heath and use their Blackheath Library“.
On the other hand – this could be about making libraries hubs for local services; or, as is more likely, moving libraries in with other services. Greenwich is already planning to do this with East Greenwich Library, moving it into the Heart of East Greenwich development whenever – or if – that ever gets built, despite opposition from its users. It’s already done it with Eltham library (the “Eltham centre” handily incorporating the old library building”) and wants to do it in Woolwich too.
Or this could be about merging back office functions – 12 boroughs have already combined their catalogues to form the London Library Consortium, for example.
Chances are, it could be a combination of all three. With cuts on the horizon, it’s a development that’s worth watching if you like libraries and want to see them stay open.