I’ve been avoiding Carnegie Library ever since Lambeth Council announced its so called re-opening a month ago. My brain and heart knew the announcement for the spin it so obviously was. This morning I was forced into the ravaged listed building to attend a meeting. As a representative of the literacy charity Ruskin Readers I went to find out if there’s any hope of this ousted community group eventually returning to Carnegie Library.
Standing in the icy entry way I have serious doubts. Once beyond the swing doors my fears are not allayed. This is what the council considers a viable library: the repetitive resounding rattle and rumble of a digger in the garden, the central area covered in a range of books stacked on shelves, a small area housing 6 or so computer terminals, sets of tables and chairs in the round, a couple of automated book issue machines, a photocopier/printer and security guards.
“So where are the librarians?” You ask. Well you’ll have to ring a number for their assistance. Oh, and hands-on librarians will only be available at limited specified times. This provided by a leaflet posted on a pillar.
Together with myself and the three other meeting attendees there is a total of 12 people in the library. 3 of the 12 are security guards; 1 nursing two standing heaters, another patrolling in an Arctic style parka, a third - statuesque in a body warmer –acts as bouncer to the blocked off entrance of what used to be the wonderful Wildlife Garden.
The lack of people emphasises how much our community has lost by the senseless closure of this much loved building for far too long and my Raynoids Syndrome flares despite the fact I’m wearing my obligatory fingerless gloves. There’s no way I can remove my coat or beret during the course of the meeting. Besides this, I’m welling up as I remember previous vibrant Saturday mornings spent teaching an Inkhead course here or just catching up with people during one of the regular tea and cake stalls run by the Friends. I’m heartbroken and inconsolable.
So what else is missing besides the vibrancy which was once the mainstay of this community building? Well, there is no disabled access, no access to public toilets, no possibility of mums with prams gaining access, no kitchen. And what, I wonder lurks behind the screened off side rooms? I suspect damage to walls and parquet flooring from water ingress.
So I reiterate – this then is what Lambeth Council considers a viable substitute to the wonderfully run Carnegie Library we once had.