The Friends Group is a formally constituted sub-committee of the Brixton Society and a recognised voice for users of Tate Library Brixton. It has operated since 2010 representing the users of the Library as “Friends of Tate Library” through Lambeth’s consultations on the future of libraries in the Borough.
News from Tate Library Brixton. The new staff structure for Lambeth’s libraries is now in place. Brixton Tate Library has a new Manager, Liz Buchanan. We now have regular meetings with her. We plan a larger event/meeting after the end of the summer, open to all. This is a chance to find out more, make suggestions – and get involved! Meanwhile, our next meeting with Liz will look at cooperative planning for more events, changes to the layout and making the building more attractive outside (e.g. by installing planters).
Are we getting a full revamp? Not as great as at Streatham, but changes are afoot. The children’s area is moving to the back. The display cabinet that Brixton Society donated to the library may be moved. The interior has recently been enlivened and enhanced by art exhibitions (e.g. Wendy Sullivan’s vibrant paintings and interesting sculptural exhibitions) and displays in the cabinet.
Can we be proactive with more events? Look out for Brixton Society workshops. On the first Saturday of every month, Joanna Splilman and Marilyn Rogers will run free art workshops (funded by Coldharbour Communityfirst, supported by Friends of Tate Library Brixton) – see image of previous workshop above.
Round up news of libraries in Lambeth There have been no (FOLL) Friends of Lambeth Libraries meetings of late, while the head of libraries was off sick. The chairperson of FOLL, Laura Swaffield, keeps us abreast of “movings and shakings” at Lambeth relating to libraries. One constant debate is the real meaning of Lambeth’s “co-operative council” structure. Is the ultimate aim for communities to take over the running of libraries? We are constantly assured otherwise, but need to be aware of the effects of continuing cuts to the council’s budget. As Paul Brewer, Chair of Friends of West Norwood Library, said in a recent memo: “ Older buildings are particularly inflexible, and have higher maintenance costs. It follows that it is very unlikely that a viable business plan can be developed for a library that is fully financially independent.
“The overwhelming majority of libraries will always require financial support from public money if they are to maintain a good quality of service (opening hours, stock, etc.). Pretending otherwise shows a poor grasp of the financial realities. “It all, then, comes down to how much our councils are prepared to pay.”
But another contributor suggested it would be good “to delegate budgets and empower the local community to appoint local librarian managers. There is much we can adapt from best practice in community-led libraries in other London boroughs”. As Laura Swaffield responded: “I am VERY wary of this proposed alternative… this looks to me like a step towards volunteer-run libraries.”
The times for libraries are political, and are a-changing. Different boroughs have a different take on how to proceed. But one thing is certain – Friends groups are important in order to give a sense of what is possible (and what is not!). To help us be more active