Upper Norwood Library by Richard Calvert

An Update from Upper Norwood Library Trust – 26 March 2016

All the Trustees care passionately about libraries and their contribution to culture and communities and, in particular, we care deeply about keeping our library in the heart of Crystal Palace.

That is why we have dedicated our talents and many, many hours, to building a robust business plan that will give Upper Norwood Library a thriving and sustainable future.

That plan – which frustratingly, has had to change a number of times over the past few years with the changing priorities of local authorities – has enabled us to win the confidence of both funding local authorities (Lambeth and Croydon).

As a community we are fortunate to have a unique library in Upper Norwood,- as an independent library it has been funded for the past 115 years by two local councils, Lambeth and Croydon but also serves residents from another three boroughs, Bromley, Lewisham and Southwark.

But that has also made the situation complicated and we have had to negotiate very hard with both local authorities. Their confidence in our business plan was demonstrated when they recently pledged a further £100,000 over the next two years, on top of the money already committed. So the Upper Norwood Library Trust will have £170,000 per year to run and staff the building with a professional paid team who will be supported by volunteers, of all ages, to whom we intend to give a wide variety of opportunities. The building will house the library provision, which Lambeth will supply, which will consist of library staff, books, computers and library sessions.

We have always believed that a library has to be at the heart of the building and to that end we continue to negotiate with Lambeth Council on exactly what they will provide.  We have asked for a maintained spend on book stock, (the same as in previous years), library staff in the building at all times, and the ability for customers to order books and talk with librarians. We believe that residents should continue to lobby Lambeth to ensure that happens – we know you all care about those issues very much.

It has been suggested that we use the budget we are receiving to provide the library as it is today but we cannot in all conscience take the money and spend it in exactly the same way. Such a choice would not be sustainable and in two years the library would once again be under threat. We want to improve the services. That is why we will use the building to provide paid for activities, grant funded activities and anything else that we can think of that will allow us to provide a thriving, sustainable service to our community, which will house the library for many years to come

We have been frustrated by a great deal of misinformation over the last few months but been powerless to respond in a fluid situation involving ongoing negotiations. We’ve equally been aware that the library staff need to make personal decisions about their future.  We know only too well what a difficult time they have had over the past few years. They have all made a terrific contribution to our precious library and, whatever decisions they are now able to make, we owe them a great debt of gratitude for making Upper Norwood Joint Library such a treasured service.

So, to be clear.

The Trust will be responsible for the running of the building from the beginning of May.

We intend to increase the opening hours. We also intend to have events and activities in the evenings when the library service is closed.

The whole of the downstairs area will be dedicated to the library service and the upstairs area will continue to provide internet access on the library service computers.

With the remaining upstairs area, we intend to put the bookshelves onto wheels so that we can make the space more flexible and over time work out the best configuration for the additional services we intend to supply.

It will be different – things will change because they have to. There will be self service machines (and why not? – why have staff stamping books when their expertise could be used in other, better ways?), there will be volunteers – of course, because volunteering opens doors and provides great outcomes for all sorts of local people – and we ask for your help and support with this change over the next months and years. We have the plans and the expertise to make the library the centre for all kinds of community activities. For learning, for personal development, for fun, for culture, for young, for old, for everyone.

If you wish to know more about the Trust and how you can help sustain our library then keep an eye on this website, or join our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/uppernorwoodlibrarytrust/ or follow us on Twitter @UNLibraryTrust and if you would like to become one of the Upper Norwood Library 100 and make an annual donation of £100, or a one-off donation, go to https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/uppernorwoodlibrarytrust

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