Campaigners fear for future of Croydon libraries uncertain after facilities outsourced


The council rubbished claims they undervalue the arts.


By Alice Todman

The little girl just comes up to my knee in height (if you include her bun).

We are looking at the same thing; a display in Croydon Central Library by a Manga club, fans of the Japanese comic and film art form.

In eight years the girl will be a teenager, but the future of Croydon’s libraries is uncertain as all 13 were outsourced to John Laing Integrated Services (JLIS) in an eight year contract which started on the October 1.

“The council has decimated the arts by privatising libraries and selling off the Riesco collection of Chinese pottery,” said Elizabeth Ash, founding member of the Speak Up For Libraries and trustee of The Library Campaign.

Councillor Tim Pollard, Deputy Leader of Croydon’s Conservatives and Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Learning, said accusations that his party undervalues the arts is nonsense.

He said: “The money raised by selling less than 10% of the Riesco collection will go towards refurbishing another jewel in Croydon’s crown, Fairfield Halls.”

This year saw the privatisation of the Royal Mail, raising debates about whether contemporary Conservatives are repeating Margaret Thatcher’s privatisation of public services.

Councillor Timothy Godfrey, the Labour Member for Selhurst Ward, said that Labour will terminate the contract with JLIS and develop the library service in co-operation with local residents if they win next year’s elections.

He added: “Croydon can be so much better than this so we will work to rebuild culture, starting with libraries but also we will look to reopen the Warehouse Theatre, reopen the borough art gallery and safeguard the Fairfield Halls.”

Ms Ash said that in spite of Labour’s promise, the contract with Laing’s may be difficult to undo. Councillor Pollard said the contract is with the council rather than an individual party.

The Save Croydon Libraries campaign expressed concern that there has been a lack of communication from the council, with some residents unaware that all 13 libraries have been outsourced.

Ms Ash added that while she believes Laing’s will make positive changes, such as the replacement of faulty computers and the replenishment of book stock, those changes should already have been made.

The future of Croydon’s libraries is uncertain, but if there are libraries for everyone in the borough, there will be sisters and brothers and friends reading, meeting and working in them.

Photo courtesy of Upper Norwood Library Campaign, with thanks.

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