Carnegie Library – Labour’s PR gaff

Posted on: 18th February, 2018 in Comment

Carnegie Library battle – what is the truth?
Carnegie Library is a much loved local library in Herne Hill Road, slightly off our patch. Its early Edwardian features and the Friends group events in recent years have brought in users from a wider area – until its closure for conversion.
Three Brixton Society members attended the reopening on Thursday 16th February. There were numbers of library campaigners waiting on the steps, including the chair of the Friends of Carnegie Library. The library did open as scheduled at 1 pm, and everyone moved in to see what had changed. There was also a BBC camera crew there, which I will discuss later on.
All that remains of the library now is one large room containing loads of shelves of books, several tables with desktop computers for public use, and a machine to self-service loan and return of books. No service desk. It would appear that sanitary and refreshment provision for public and any staff is rudimentary at the least.
Former meeting rooms to the south of the building are blocked off, as is the door to the Library Garden (see picture above). The garden lent a suburban grace to the library but has now been taken for building works relating to the new gym. The library “book and computer room” is now rather oppressive and hemmed in, where previously the Carnegie Library had a spacious airy feel.
So how did we get to here? About 5 years ago a self-appointed group called the Carnegie Herne Hill Community Trust was formed. They wanted to take over the running of the library and the library building and proposed income generating ideas – a gym in particular to bring in revenue.
The Carnegie Herne Hill Community Trust is closely connected to the Labour Party – the main spokesman Fred Taggart having been a Lambeth Labour Councillor in the 1986-1990 era, and two other trustees had close party affiliations.
The Community Trust evidently sold the idea of scaling the library down and adding in income generating activity so well that Lambeth Council turned to their normal partner in such matters – GLL who run Brixton Rec and other Lambeth sports facilities, which was natural enough as GLL (who now call themselves “Better”) have also branched out into library management in other places such as Wandsworth and even Manchester.
With Council elections due up in May this year, the issue has now beome a political footbal. The Green Party have been hammering the Carnegie issue (in favour of the Friends of Carnegie Library and the existing service level), but now Labour are putting out leaflets claiming that their council candidates have been fighting to get the library re-opened.
Such distortion has set a new low – a Labour council which closed a library has Labour council candidates fighting to re-open it!
Added to which Councillor Jim (“Gym”?) Dickson – cabinet member and candidate – has got into a Twitter spat over TV coverage. Unfortunately the BBC do not preserve London local news on the iPlayer, but Jim informatively posted film of himself pacing round the empty library on his Twitter feed. From propaganda on the rates to propaganda on the TV license! What a mess.

Feb 16 opening

Below is Cllr Jim Dicksons’s video. Interesting to know if this was done by the BBC. Maybe the Party Political Broadcast unit? Check what you think is accurate and what is spin.