Jubilee Edition 2012                                                                                      Editor : P. Richardson                                            

                        This is the official Newsletter of The Users & Friends of Manor House Library, June  2012               



    Lewisham’s Community Libraries opened at the end of May/beginning of June 2011 in Blackheath Village, Crofton Park, Sydenham, Grove Park.  New Cross residents had to seize the initiative, against the council’s wishes, in order to preserve some kind of service and have played a blinder in so doing.

    Consequently the people of Lewisham now have to tolerate the experiment of a two-tier, if not a three-tier library service.  We all pay for the service, through tax, council tax, VAT etc etc, but some of us receive a better service than others.  This cannot be right and it is indefensible.  It completely flouts the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, but no local, nor national politician, thinks that breaking the law is of any importance at all.  What an example to us all!  Where is there a policeman when you need one?

    Once Lewisham had done this and DCMS policy was to do nothing the gloves were off and libraries were under threat in many authorities across the country



    Pat pictured with members of Libraries for Life for Londoners and fellow members of the “Speak Up For Libraries” coalition outside Parliament on 13th March 2012.

    Also pictured next to Pat is Anne Bennet of Libraries for Life for Londoners and a keen activist against the closure of Blackheath Village Library talking to Judith Deschamps of The Library Campaign.  These three ladies and Peter had earlier lobbied our MP, Heidi Alexander in Portcullis House.  Ms Alexander and her aide promised to investigate several enquiries for us and consequently delivered some answers.

    We may well be forced to approach her again later.


    April 2011 interview with DCMS staff concerning the looming situation in Lewisham

    16/5/ 2011 London library users lobby the DCMS and 10 Downing Street.  We handed over files containing information on the situation in Lewisham and other parts of London.  We were supported and helped by members of Lewisham People Before Profit.

    22/10/2011 The Library Campaign Conference

    This very well attended day, addressed by Philip Pullman, resulted in the decision to hold a Rally to lobby Parliament in defence of library closures and changes

    27/10/2011 CMS Parliamentary Select Committee hearing

    Secretary of State at the DCMS, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, undergoes his annual grilling by the Committee.  It was touch and go whether the Public Library Service would be considered worth bringing up by the MPs, but Chair, John Whittingdale MP, did so, very near the end.

    The Committee announces an enquiry into “Library Closures”

    There is no doubt the enquiry was brought about by the huge impact of public outrage as well as various legal challenges.

    7/2/2012 CMS Committee, first hearing of evidence for its enquiry

    21/2/2012 CMS Committee second hearing of evidence for its enquiry

    13/3/2012 CMS Committee interview the minister, Ed Vaizey MP, with libraries in his portfolio

    Hundreds of Library Campaigners and Users rally in Westminster Hall, listen to speakers, including Labour MP, Dan Jarvis, with responsibility for Libraries, then lobby their MPs.  Library Campaigners were supported by The Library Campaign, Libraries for Life for Londoners, The Women’s Institute, Unison, etc etc? and formed the overall campaigning group, “Speak up for Libraries”

    3/5/2012 Consortia Conference in Bath

    16/5/2012 Arts Council England hold a series of workshops on the Public Library Service as they have taken over some level of responsibility for it, but have none under the 1964 Act.  Pat attended the session held at Swiss Cottage Library


    However, if you have read the reports of what has happened in Brent and the Isle of Wight you would know the general public has absolutely NO influence on policy AT ALL – zilch, nada,zip…No u-turns here, but

     some turnarounds in Surrey, Bolton, Huddersfield, a Greenwich concession …

    But, as Dame Joan Bakewell comments in last Friday’s Daily Telegraph on Brent Council’s organised “raid on Kensal Rise public  library building, protected by a posse of policemen.”  She highlights support given by residents in Brent to those libraries being closed and the large sums of money raised.  She concludes “that’s because they recognise that a library – like a parish church – sits at the heart of a community.  Take it away and some intangible civic good is lost.

    By contrast, the Kensal Rise story stands witness to our loss of values and our slow drift to being an uncaring and ignorant country.”


    Description: Pound Sign PLR: Description: Pound Sign

    Normally PLR refers to Peter Laurence Richardson, that well-known Lewisham library campaigner.  Nationally PLR becomes the Public Lending Right, which is overseen by a Quango headed by a Registrar.  It ensures that statistics are collated from samples from the Public Library Service on their issues so that authors may receive small sums calculated on the borrowing figures for their books.  There is a ceiling to this amount.  It is paid from the funds held by the PLR.

    There is a history to this, as ever.  The first PLR Act was in 1979, followed by another in 1985 and an up-date in November 1996.  By that date the European Union had entered the equation in November 1992.  The PLR is regulated by directive 92/100/EEC on rental right and lending right. In 2002 a report by the European Commission pointed out that many countries had failed to implement the directive.  PLR programmes vary from country to country.

    So, why the history lesson?  Well, it seems the PLR, as enshrined in law, may be having an impact on the fragmentation of the PLS across the country as it is now being implemented in a variety of ways.

    Concerns led me to make enquiries of Lewisham council and the PLR.  I received a very gracious reply from Dr. J. G. Parker, the Registrar.  He was also awaiting details from Lewisham but went on to say ….”Under the PLR registration PLR only applies to public libraries administered by local authorities as defined by the Public Libraries Act, 1964.  This, therefore, would exclude library branches no longer run by the local authority and taken over by voluntary groups.  It’s a bit of a grey area in some parts of the country.  For example, where a local authority is allowing volunteers to run branches but still under the umbrella of the local authority and using the local authority library computer system, then loans from that library would still count for PLR.  But if an authority closes a branch and an independent voluntary group, for example, takes it over and runs it outside the local authority service then PLR would not apply.  This raises the wider question about what should be done in cases like this about remuneration for authors whose books are being lent out. My understanding is that under the UK’s copyright legislation book lending is a copyright act and a licence may be needed – except where PLR applies …………….  The government may want to look again at the existing legislation.”  The society of authors has taken up the cudgel!

    This muddle has been overseen by Ed Vaizey MP the Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries and his boss, the Secretary of State The Right Hon. Jeremy Hunt MP.  (Currently he is looking haunted by other matters, but could win some brownie points by dealing with the meltdown of the Public Library Service!)  It is yet another example of not thinking things through, not availing yourself of the best advice and maybe not even being aware of what was involved.  It shrieks negligence, incompetence and “misgovernment” at best!



    Description: Theatre masksHobbies 0303Arts Council England:

    Now, how did that organisation get involved?  Well, the PLS used to be overseen by that other quango Museums, Libraries and Archives (MLA.)  In its wisdom the new government decided to have a bonfire of the quangos.  MLA was included, but the bonfire was much smaller than anticipated and MLA was shoved under the umbrella of ACE.  Alan Davey, the Chief Executive, was interviewed by the CMS Select Committee.  He was pressed on ACE’s responsibilities for the PLS but it was clear from his reply that it was not what had been interpreted.  However, when interviewed later by the committee on this topic Ed Vaizey implied something different.  Therefore the Chair of the Committee, John Whittingdale MP, quizzed him on this difference.  Let’s hear it direct from Mr. Davey in his response to my query, “In October 2011 Arts Council England assumed some of the responsibilities for libraries from the previous MLA council.  Our new role does not include the provision, funding or monitoring of library services, nor does it cover a definition of comprehensive and efficient library services.  However, we will play a significant role in supporting and developing the libraries sector.  Continuing discussions with the library sector, in-house expertise and a national overview will enable us to draw an accurate picture of the challenges and opportunities for libraries, and be in a unique position to help drive national cultural policy.”

    Swiss Cottage workshop … ACE is conducting a series of workshops, surveys, research and so-called consultations in an attempt to achieve an overall picture of what the public library service should be.  It is most unfortunate that contact with users is thin on the ground.  However, library professionals, managers, interested businesses etc are NOT thin on the ground. 

    London Libraries Consortium … Pat and Peter attended this in Bath on 3/5/2012 having been sponsored by The Library Campaign to do so.   

    Visits Figures/Issues Figures for Lewisham Public Library and Information service:

    We have these going back for quite a few years so are able to have them appraised for trends……….

    There is a declining trend in both visit/issue figures over the last 3 years, at all libraries.  Acceleration of this trend is noticeable in the community libraries.  However, a Lewisham library officer told the ACE workshop that the catastrophic figures were caused by problems arising when the library service changed the Library Management Service software.

    How this contributed to a continuous downturn needs an answer.  When was the LMS changed?  Surely it should not have continued over such a long period unless the library service had been negligent and/or incompetent?  Another officer stated that CIPFA will allow these figures to stand, in spite of the claim that the figures are incorrect, so will have a marked effect on quality of the service itself.  Curiouser and curiouser as the weird figures issued by Lewisham Library Service conceal the true picture of the service that is being provided.  Clearly this is in nobody’s interests.


    View from the Chair:

    Almost half of the year 2012 has now passed with few benefits to library users.  The public’s pressure on the government, either at national or local level, is met with stony refusal to alter the present culling of the library service.  Ed Vaizey, M.P., Minister for Culture and the Creative Industries and his boss, the Rt. Hon. Jeremy Hunt, M.P. the Secretary of State at the DCMS are still ‘not minded’ to intervene in any local authority library service’s decision to close any library branches or to exercise Parliament’s statutory duty to superintend a library service which no longer adheres to the tenets of that statute.  Mr. Vaizey is content to wait for a local authority to invite him to intervene should it feel its policies may contravene the Act.

    As if!  Which galaxy is this man living in?

    After giving his evidence to the CMS Committee on March 13th 2012 I asked him if he was “still monitoring the situation in Lewisham.”  He calmly replied that he was, and that a decision would be announced soon.

    Strange, but he told me exactly the same thing last year!

    So, the ‘community libraries’ of Blackheath, Crofton Park, Grove Park and Sydenham continue to struggle on.  Uniquely, Crofton Park is returning adequate visitor figures.  But look at the issue figures – because they are the ones which matter.  The Bakehouse library in Blackheath, which is the interim ‘Community Library’ pending the completion of the refurbishment of the Reminiscence Centre is particularly poor.  Nevertheless, the remaining ‘Community libraries’ also provide poor lending figures.  The residents of these communities who once showed robust interest in their libraries do not appear to be migrating to any of the nearby ‘Hub’ libraries.  All lending figures are down.  Word is reaching us that choice is poor everywhere, which implies a reduction in Lewisham’s library stock.  So, the council, having given away five libraries which they claim is a means of saving money, is not replenishing quality stock in those that do remain.  Consequently, fewer issues across the Service are now shown in the statistics.

    Statistical decline in usage has been used in the past to validate library closures  as we experienced over the Manor House in 1999.  Is this déjà vu, all over again? 

    We have long since given up attempting to make sense of the reasons local authorities throughout the land are so keen to close the library service.  After all, they cost relative peanuts to run, and if run adequately are highly appreciated by the public who use them and by means of their taxes, actually pay for them.  The library service is not a gift.  It’s a ‘quid pro quo’, a service you are funding. 

    This fundamental fact forms the basis of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, which demands that the Service is both comprehensive and efficient.  Only Parliament can repeal the Act, so as long as it remains on the Statute Book, its tenets must be maintained.  We are back to the Secretary of State for Culture, the Rt.Hon. Jeremy Hunt, M.P. who is content to allow Ed Vaizey, M.P. to avoid intervention in Lewisham’s decision to create a two-tier service in the borough - a clear contravention of the Act.

    We have repeatedly asked the Minister(s) to pay an unannounced inspection of the community libraries plus one or more of the “Hub” libraries (such as our own) for comparison purposes.  Perhaps then they could decide whether or not to intervene?  But no.  That’s the easy way out!

    Remaining in limbo is obviously their preferred option.  Never mind the people!



    Questions to Council about our service and buildings   


    What is the Lewisham Public Library Service budget for 2012-13?  How much of this budget is being spent on books?  How much is spent on DVDs?  How much is spent on CDs?  How much is spent on e-books?
    How much of the budget is being spent on the community libraries?  How is the money allocated to Blackheath Community Library, Crofton Park Community Library, Grove Park Community Library, Sydenham Community Library and New Cross Learning?
    Is there any outsourced funding supporting any of these community libraries?



    The Manor House, Lee is currently undergoing structural repairs.  What do these repairs entail?  What is the cost of these repairs?  Is the bill the responsibility of insurers, the council or the original contractors?  If it is the council from which budget is this taken?



    For the financial year April 2011/March 2012 what is the income generated from all sources for the Manor House, Lee?  Is this making a profit, and if so, how much?



    Has anything "in kind", purchased with public funds been allocated to the community libraries or New Cross Learning?  Which library received anything and what was the benefit in kind?



    The Deptford Lounge recently opened in Deptford.  It is a library, but the word "library" is omitted from the building's title.

    This principle also exists at The Downham Health and Leisure Centre.  The word library has now also been replaced by the word "Learning" at the New Cross community library.

    Could anyone in the Council explain why this appears to be necessary? 







    1.      World Book Night, was very well attended and appreciated

    2.      A History of Hither Green was one of the best attended functions

    3.      The Jubilee was celebrated by a showing of “The Queen” followed by refreshments and a vibrant discussion on constitutional monarchy, the royal family, recent connected events

    Please watch out for a programme of events as you may miss one that would prove valuable and worth attending.


    In memoriam – The death of Ray Bradbury, aged 91, has just been announced.  This supreme writer of imaginative, creative and prophetic Science Fiction has to his credit “Fahrenheit 451”

    It is timely and appropriate to remember his contribution in defence of book and the written word.











    Useful websites: