Absolutely Fabulous actress Joanna Lumley joins fight against Lambeth library closures

Joanna Lumley has joined library campaigners against council plans to close half its libraries.

The Absolutely Fabulous actress lives near Tate South Lambeth library, one of the libraries the council is planning to partly transform into a gym.

“I joined the campaign partly because one of the greatest joys in my life is reading,” she told SW Londoner.

The proposals have come under fire because, according to campaigners, they replace libraries with a shelf of books.

Library campaigners are particularly angry at the planned absence of permanent librarian staff.

“It’s important to be near someone who can advise you and say ‘have you tried this?’ or ‘what about looking at that?’” said Ms Lumley.

“I think the more deprived the area the more necessary a library is.

“I support schemes sending new books to create libraries in schools in Africa, and here we are in our rich and cultured nation closing them down.”

Tate South Lambeth Library hosts regular classes teaching English as a foreign language.

This is something that Friends of Tate South Lambeth Library chair Edith Holtham explained is essential to the Portuguese community.

“Lambeth is a very poor council and I sympathise tremendously with them,” said Ms Lumley.

“What you do to keep fit you can do in gyms very close to South Lambeth. You can’t read library books anywhere but in a library.

“It’s a mental home for people who might be old and lonely. It’s terrific for children who may not have quiet space at home.

“You can’t move in our house for books, so I’m not the person who uses the library most, but I will defend tooth and nail libraries, the education of the mind and the possibility to dream – I will defend that to the hilt.”

“Books mean everything to me – you learn with them, escape with them, weep with them.

“If I had to have a piece of bread or a book for supper I would choose a book.”

Cabinet member for Neighbourhoods, Councillor Jane Edbrooke, said: “This process has been prompted by the government cutting our funding, which has left us needing to make £200million in savings between April 2010 and March 2016.

“There’s no way we can avoid this having an impact, and it means we have to change the way we do things.

“I know change is difficult and I know no one want to see services revised but that is the reality we now face.

“These new services will potentially give residents the chance to use both health and library services in one place. I believe this is a great deal for the borough.”

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