The petition created by the Friends of South Norwood Library campaign group has been widely shared since it was released on Sunday night.
Verena Ammon, a resident of South Norwood, told Eastlondonlines the area would be devastated if the library shut: “We need the library to be the cornerstone and heart of our little town.”
The South Norwood area has a higher population of Black, African, Caribbean and Black British people than the rest of the borough, according to the petition, which it suggests will “disadvantag[e] black lives” if it closes.
The library was moved from its old premises to the more central location of Station Road only last year and was completely renovated at an expense of approximately £500,000.
Ammon added that the community received money from the Good Growth Fund, an amount of more than £1m, which was supposed to go to the South Norwood community and library in April 2019. “But we haven’t seen any progress.”
As well as the petition, the campaign group plan a 15 minute socially-distanced protest in front of the library on Saturday. They predict over 90 people will attend.
“[W]e will do everything to show the council it would be wrong to close our library. It is just too important to our great community here in South Norwood! If that’s by having another protest, we will organise one,” Ammon told ELL.
Other libraries facing closure include Broad Green, Bradmore Green, Sanderstead and Shirley.
The cuts disproportionately affect those that live in in these areas, said Ash. She added: “Broad Green [library] serves families, it helps young children with their homework, and gives them resources they don’t have access to [at home]… In Broadmore Green, an elderly residential area, [people] can’t travel into Coulsdon library… or central Croydon.”
These libraries are for “education, for mental health, for job searches, for people to access PCs, lots of these [spaces] are great for the community.”
Ash said the council seems to be trying to hide the problem: “[Monday night’s meeting] had a very positive note [but] decisions have been made, they need to come out and say that.”
The closure of libraries was already being discussed as a possibility last year by the Labour cabinet, following the release of a Red Quadrant report which implied that closing four libraries could increase savings. “It’s stemmed over a period of time,” said Ash.
She still remains hopeful these closures can be prevented but emphasised that it should be a group effort: “We need to fight together…[for] the library service, not just the individual libraries…We’ve fought library cuts and we will again.”
Councillor Oliver Lewis, the Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport said in Monday’s council meeting that libraries will be saved on the basis of “footfall, proximity, equality, impact and future repair and maintenance costs.” He added that “lengthy” consultations would be happening at the start of next year.
A public meeting run by local residents in the borough is set to take place to discuss how to continue fighting the potential closures.
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