Monday, 28 March 2011

Wandsworth council libraries consultation and the sad, uncertain future of York Gardens Library

The Wandsworth Council libraries "consultation" result was announced in February - 10 days after the closing date. Singular because I find it impossible to believe it was not a ready-written press-release, a plan set in stone before a single pair of eyes were cast on the 1,200 surveys that were returned; or that 1,200 surveys could be analysed in just 10 days.

The original plan announced last month was that the library would retain only its children and IT services. Now it seems that the library as a whole will be saved, but only if volunteers will run it. Article from newspaper about how York Gardens would be used as a pilot for the Big Society scheme - it's noted that if the pilot failed the council could just put the blame on the community not doing enough to save it and thus evade any blame themselves.

The new plans being considered are published here:

It was quite clear from some of the survey results quoted that there was a large amount of questioning over the ability of volunteers to run libraries as opposed to trained, skilled, professional staff. Indeed, the result was resounding that the majority were deeply concerned over York Gardens being earmarked for closure and the detrimental effects this would leave on such a deprived, small, immediate community.

The way Wandsworth Council chose to present the reults are in PDF form here.

My comments were quoted directly from my consultation form at least twice that I can see, namely:

"Paid library workers with professional knowledge and skills, not volunteers, please."

"Having heard the news of the possible closure of York Gardens library in the Wandsworth
borough of London, I made a special trip to visit when normally I would access Southfields
library, 3 miles away. I immediately warmed to York Gardens library. Set in a large estate
of tower blocks, I can see how vital an asset it must be to the surrounding large community.
Looking at the various events, info, and things on offer, it's clear that there's so much more
than a mere book-lending facility here. Reading groups of all ages, activities for children,
craft activities for young people, even an old memories of Battersea group. What's more,
the library itself is inside a community building with a community centre that offers much to
the local residents. The library offers an incredibly impressive range of items on loan for
such a compact space, and is laid out in such a way that it's heart-warming - I feel
immediately positive of mood, after what had today been an upsetting morning; because it's
simply such a good place to be; good for the mental health. People think of London as
being this big centre, when really there are countless little communities just as cut-off as
anywhere smaller. And London does have its tiny communities. York Gardens is beset by
what must be Council or ex-Council tower block flats. There are pockets of poverty in all bits of London - and people forget this, just how vital libraries are in providing info on all kinds of local info, be it related to further education, benefits, leisure centres and other amenities in the area, local writing competitions, even the sale of local postcards and local history books. The provision is palpable. I will make the lengthy journey every week to use this library and make it my regular library. A former Wandsworth resident, I now live in Merton. It would be detrimental to the immediate community and beyond should the Council choose to close this library."

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