Local authors, poets, columnists and celebrities rallied to the defence of Sydenham Library this Saturday as part of a national day of protest against library closures and funding cuts.
More than 100 people attended the read-in event, one of hundreds being held at libraries across the country. Sydenham is among five Lewisham libraries facing closure after council budget cuts. The borough needs to find £87m of savings over the next four years, after the government slashed local council grants.
Catriona Bateman, a local mother attending the event, called the library a “hub of the community”.
Children’s authors Karen Wall & Jim Helmore, creators of the Stripy Horse series, read at the event along with local author Julie Day and poet Chrissie Gittins, who read a specially composed poem “Longing to be Heard”, in honour of Sydenham Library.
Author and Guardian columnist Lucy Mangan supported the event with a reading from her book “The Reluctant Bride”.
Other highlights included a singing and music session for children and a performance by Sly and Reggie, the dub group who have penned the song “We Love Libraries“, which has become a YouTube hit. At the end of the event, 26 balloons were released outside of the library, one for every letter of the alphabet; symbolising libraries’ role in supporting literacy.
Richard Hart, a retired librarian said: “I was here when the library had its 70th anniversary celebrations. This library is for old people and disabled people as well. It’s a centre of culture and this area has very few council facilities.”
Anthony Scully, Chair of the Save Sydenham Library campaign said: “We are here today for a celebration of the library services. Books are really important. Libraries all over the UK are under threat with regard to proposed cuts to local government.”
Lewisham Borough Council has said it needs to cut 26 per cent from its budget in the coming four years, but hopes to keep seven of the borough’s 12 libraries open.
The future of Sydenham Library, which attracts around 6,000 visitors each month, remains in doubt. Libraries in New Cross, Blackheath, Crofton Park and Grove Park are also on the council’s list for potential closure.
See relevant article here.