Upper Norwood Library 'could be saved by community'
A COMMUNITY-LED operation could be the new way forward to ensure the survival of Upper Norwood Library.
The idea is contained in a report on the reorganisation of Lambeth's libraries going to its council's cabinet next week.
And there are indications from Croydon Council that it may not rule out some kind of financial support for a fresh approach.
Croydon's libraries boss Tim Pollard told the Advertiser this week: "I think there is reason to be slightly more optimistic about the future."
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The Lambeth report commits the council to providing £170,000 a year to fund the library in Westow Hill until 2014, which until now has been jointly run by Lambeth and Croydon councils.
It says Lambeth will also explore the possibility of some kind of co-operative running of the library with the community and Croydon Council.
It is offering a further sum of around £2,000 to help the community kickstart the idea, if hopes of reviving a joint running agreement with Croydon finally bite the dust.
At Monday's meeting of Croydon Council, council leader Mike Fisher provoked outrage from campaigners when he announced: "There will be no return to the Upper Norwood joint library agreement."
Croydon unilaterally abandoned the agreement last year, claiming Lambeth members were refusing to attend meetings of the joint committee and it was therefore impossible for the agreement to operate.
Lambeth said local Upper Norwood councillors had a right to seats on the committee but were being denied by the ruling Tories' decision to designate the places to cabinet members.
On Monday, the Tories went further by dropping the concept of the committee from the council's constitution, which campaigners claimed sounded the death knell for 112 years of history of an independent library in the area.
After the meeting, Cllr Pollard said Croydon was continuing to meet with Lambeth to discuss the future.
But he said no commitment could be given to anything until the results of Croydon's consultation exercise on the future of the library were published.
There have been more than 2,000 responses and the analysis of these is expected to be presented to Croydon's cabinet in September.
Cllr Pollard said: "We have to take the views expressed very seriously and then make informed choices about what we are going to do."
He said he was aware of the Lambeth commitment and did not rule out future discussions about the idea.
Leading campaigner Robert Gibson said the fight for the library would continue.
He said: "We are not going to let the library wither on the vine.
"We prefer that the joint agreement is reinstated but if that is not feasible the community and Lambeth are working on exploring a community-led operation."
If that happened, he said, he hoped there would be financial support from Croydon to ensure it was professionally run and the service did not suffer.