Croydon libraries could be sold to American company, Library Systems Services Inc which sets up libraries and offers space in them to Starbucks.
The new move was revealed in a Sunday Express article which suggested that LSSI could: “Snap up 15 per cent of the market in the next five years.”
Last week Croydon council announced that, after a public consultation about local branch closures, the council would now consider privatisation of the entire service of 13 libraries. This is a completely new policy that was not part of the consultation.
The company has yet to establish itself in the UK and currently operates from “office space above a lettings agency in London,” according to the Express.
Stuart Fitzgerald, the LSSI’s UK vice chair said: “We are very much aware of the depth of feeling for libraries and share that. We love libraries and that is why we are in this business. Libraries are what we do. Our business depends on getting our service right in every branch, every day.”
Ian Anstice, of Voices for the Library, writes on his blog about the proposals: “LSSI has been accused of reducing the numbers, pension, terms and conditions of its employees. When taking over a service, LSSI re-employs staff on new contracts. Research shows it retains the minimum of qualified library staff… Also, there is the question as to what level these staff are qualified to. It appears that LSSI de-unionises its libraries in the United States.”
Library campaigners in the USA have also voiced concerns about the true costs of privatisation.
In an interview with the Sunday Express, Mark Smith, chair of Norbury Green Residents Association, which has been fighting to save the local library said: “Our position is, if we can keep the library open and meet standards on staffing and service, let’s see what it brings.
“We have fantastic library staff who know most people by name and they may not stay. That is a big concern because their presence makes the library what it is, just as much as the books and the building do.
“We want to protect them but, ultimately, we are fighting to keep the library open.