Culture, Media and Sport CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Old Coulsdon Library Supporters Group

Summary

Bradmore Green Library serves this topographically isolated community on the peak of the North Downs in South Croydon.

If this library is closed, certain people, including children, older people and the disabled, may need to take two buses to reach the next nearest library one mile away down a very steep hill.

Closing our library would jeopardise the social and mental health of those who currently use it, particularly the members of society mentioned above.

Job-seekers would be disadvantaged if they couldn’t afford either their own internet connection/computer, or bus fare to next nearest library.

Anyone in reduced circumstances would suffer as unable to access internet/books by any other method.

Children in the school next to our library would no longer have a library to use, and this also applies to other children who do their homework there, particularly those who may live in cramped conditions.

We are answering the questions as follows:

1. What constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century?

A comprehensive and efficient library service needs to have:

A safe, welcoming, but not necessarily large, area for study and meeting like-minded people, accessible to children, people with disabilities and older people within a short distance from their home, so they can access it without extensive travelling. The space needs to be non-intimidating and calm.

A good selection of books, for all ages, to be loaned free of charge.

Reference books such as Burke’s Peerage, Who’s Who etc, the purchase of which is well beyond most people’s pockets but can be shared by the whole community.

Well trained, professionally qualified librarians who are willing to help people with the library services.

The opportunity to use/rent the space for community meetings, especially relevant to libraries.

Internet access to enable people on a small budget to have the same opportunities as people who can afford to have it in their homes.

Help from staff to enable older/disabled people to use the computers which may be daunting to them.

Local, community information, including on library events as people wouldn’t necessarily think of looking on the Council website for such events.

Access to the computers for jobseekers who might not necessarily be able to afford to pay bus/train fares to visit Job Centres or Connexions (becoming increasingly scarce).

2. The extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Libraries & Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report

Planned library closures are not compatible with the requirements of the Act or Charteris report and do not take into account the effect closures would have on children/disabled/older people. Equalities Impact Assessments have not been done on individual libraries in the Croydon area, only a general one, which was nonsense!

3. The impact library closures have on local communities

Here in Old Coulsdon, the Bradmore Green Library is the only library available to schoolchildren at the school next door—there is no room, or space to build, such a facility for them.

Our library is perched up on the top of the North Downs, but the centre of the village and to the South is relatively flat. To get to anywhere from here steep hills have to be negotiated, and to the next nearest library, Coulsdon is a car/bus ride away (two buses from certain areas of the village). This poses severe problems to disabled/elderly people, mothers with pushchairs (with no transport).

Our library serves people who are socially deprived and isolated as they can go into a warm space—they might not see anyone all day, which is injurious to mental health.

Attempts elsewhere in the Country to privatise libraries have been mostly a disaster as private companies have been unable to operate libraries in an improved way.

4. The effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964

This has not been at all effective, as so many other libraries have been closed.

January 2012

Prepared 5th November 2012