A team of Croydon library supporters are helping residents get their voices heard as Croydon Council is holding a public consultation as part of its proposed closure of a library in the borough.
Libby Hamilton, South Norwood mum, 41, chair of Friends of South Norwood Library and editorial director of picture books at Andersen Press, is advising people on filling out the online consultation survey.
Croydon Council released the survey on 15 January and announced their libraries consultation on 5 November with a view to close South Norwood Library because of funding issues and their ultimate state of effective bankruptcy.
Hamilton said: “I want residents of South Norwood and residents of Croydon to really have their voices heard rather than have them do a tick box exercise.
“We want to make sure it’s an exercise where we are making people sit up and listen.”
A council has a statutory duty to do a public consultation if it is considering closing a library.
Croydon Council’s consultation, which runs until 7 March, allows members of the public to answer questions about how to maintain their library service and share their opinions.
Hamilton criticised the council’s use of statistics in the consultation.
She stated: “It says that only 50% of the available computer hours at South Norwood Library is used but actually what it doesn’t say is that that is a remarkably high amount.
“It might look to the general public that it’s not being used and it’s only being used 50% of the time but actually the only library that has used more is Croydon Central Library so we are determined to reframe that discussion because we think it’s really unfair.”
Last week, she hosted a Zoom meeting open to the public to give people more information about the consultation and present this in a different angle to that of the council as well as help those who are struggling to know how best to approach the survey.
When the council announced its plan to close the library, Hamilton came together with a group of other South Norwood mums to form Friends of South Norwood Library to save the library from closure.
On 5 December they held a protest outside the library with a turnout of more than 100 people.
She said that there was a lot of strong feeling within the community to protect the library and the news of the potential library closure was heart-breaking for South Norwood residents.
On 2 December Croydon Council declared a Section 114, essentially bankruptcy for a council, and their budget issues are yet to be resolved.
Councillor Oliver Lewis, cabinet member for culture and regeneration said: “These proposals are about continuing as much as possible of our excellent and comprehensive libraries service while addressing the council’s significant financial issues.”