April 18, 2016
Carnegie Library protesters take to the streets, plan next steps
by Chad Felix
Last week, we reported on the anger of patrons and big-name authors over the decision to convert Lambeth’s Carnegie Library into what the Lambeth Council is calling “a healthy living centre,” more popularly known as a gym.
In protest of this decision, which was carried out despite timely and peaceful opposition at the time of its proposition, activists occupied the library grounds, starting March 31st: the 110-year-old library’s final official day as a library.
As their numbers increased, participants in the Carnegie occupation organized a march, which saw a reported 2,000 people walking in protest of the Council’s decision. The protest was documented on Twitter, as well as local media. Since then—the march took place on Saturday, April 9th—activity seems to have mellowed, at least in terms of media coverage.
Online, however, the cause is still flourishing, with evidence of continuing meetings toward the cause, as well as a supportive open letter, published April 12th, entitled “Why I Broke Ranks – a Letter to Lambeth” from Lambeth council member Rachel Heywood. She writes:
Standing up to speak on my own in Windrush Square was a lot harder than walking with those passionate crowds. In doing so I defied the political leadership of Lambeth and put at significant risk my role as a Labour councillor, one of which I am immensely proud. But on Saturday, and now, I know I did the right thing, and I don’t regret it…
[I]t seems we’ve lost sight of what our communities want and need … It isn’t just about the libraries, although they are a powerful example of a substantial breakdown in trust and communication between the electorate and the elected, and of an imposed “solution,” which does not provide any answers. There is a solution for the libraries and it has already been identified. Sometimes the bravest act, and the one commanding most respect, is to admit that a change in direction is what is needed. The people of Lambeth want help and they know how to, I believe we should trust the people who gave us their mandate and move forward, not apart but together.
Keep up with the latest here.
Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.