West London Councils Combine Library Forces

Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea councils have announced plans to combine library services, in a move they say will secure the future of all libraries in the area and one that will presumably send Eric Pickles into paroxysms of joy.

The plan will allow residents of the three boroughs access to 1m books and save £1m a year (but at the cost of 27 jobs). Culture Secretary Ed Vaizey says:

“Merging services across three boroughs is vastly preferable to library closures and I hope that other local authorities will come up with their own forward-looking plans for keeping libraries open.”

While the prospect of being able to get hold of a ton more books sounds brilliant for residents, we’re not so sure about the tri-borough’s claims to be “ensuring all of their 21 public libraries remain safe from closure”.

See, there are currently 24 libraries open in the area, and the PDF plans acknowledge (page 26) that three will close by the end of the year. A bit of Googling reveals these to be St James’s library (also: the building housing Old Marylebone library is currently up for let) in Westminster; in Hammersmith there are moves to transfer Baron’s Court and Sands End libraries to local schools, turning them into community centres, leaving the borough with just four publicly run facilities. Which doesn’t sound all that different to what’s happened in Lewisham, and there was outcry there.

Campaigners also claim Westminster library users will lose out because the council spends far more on services than its new friends (well, it would do; it’s got twice the libraries), and that sharing services will force it down to the new common level.

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  • http://twitter.com/sparticus Mark Walley

    St James’ library is shutting down but only because a new community building thingy is opening soon that’ll supposedly contain a new library. There’s some detail on the westminster website

  • Anonymous

    Interesting piece, thank you very much for writing.

    Details I have on Public Libraries News (publiclibrariesnews.com) are…

    Hammersmith and Fulham – 2 under threat (to be run by volunteers) and 1 mobile (record office to have £70k cut from £88k, volunteers, presumably no professional archivists, reduced hours) (£310k cut)

    Kensington & Chelsea – North Kensington Library may be moved to new site to allow for land to be sold to private company/public school. 

    Westminster – 1 under threat (St James’s Library to close) (Marylebone may never reopen) Petition to save St James’ Library. Withdrawing from RNIB scheme, replacing with e-audio service.  Old Marylebone Library is up for let.

    Hopefully, the links will work on this post.  If not go to page “tally by local authority” on the PLN site.

  • http://twitter.com/guy_in_london Sharad Patel

    It’s a good thing to share !!!