Five of Croydon’s thirteen libraries are due to close amid the council’s declaration of bankruptcy in late 2020.
The five buildings facing closure are Bradmore Green, Shirley, Sanderstead, South Norwood, and Broad Green.
The council said these libraries had expensive maintenance costs and were the least visited.
Their fate will be sealed after a final deliberation this summer.
Out of the five libraries, the Shirley building was least visited, with only 31,250 visitors from 2019 to 2020, the council said without specifying the exact period.
This is 66% fewer visitors than the popular Selsdon library building just ten minutes’ drive away.
Protests and petitions
There have been a series of protests and several petitions in an attempt to save the libraries, but closures are set to go ahead.
‘Save South Norwood Library’ petition currently has the support of 3,906 signatures.
The Friends of South Norwood Library said in the petition: “Libraries will play an essential part in local recovery after Covid – supporting job seekers and young learners and combatting the harmful effects of isolation with a safe, local space. This would be the worst time to lose such a valuable asset.”
They added they were concerned that the closures will disproportionately impact the BAME community.
Councillor Oliver Lewis, a cabinet member for culture and regeneration, said: “We intend to keep open at least eight buildings and our wide-ranging digital access but we also face some tough decisions, so I urge anyone with an interest in our libraries to take part in this consultation and help shape the future service.”
The council also says eight other libraries will remain open with “wide-ranging digital access” which will deliver books to those who cannot borrow them in person.
Improvements such as high-speed broadband and the online library service have modernised Croydon’s libraries in recent years and attracted 1,800 new members since April 2020.
Feedback site opens until March 7
The pandemic has forced a major shift in the way residents have used the library service.
In partnership with The Libraries Consortium, Croydon’s libraries have granted access to 41,000 e-books, newspapers, magazines, and training materials. This access is said to have helped residents and their children through the ongoing lockdown and shown the future of online libraries.
Croydon Libraries has set up a feedback page open until March 7, outlining the councils proposals and giving residents the opportunity to voice their views and feedback.
The tightened budget is a part of the “renewal plan” which seeks to have the council financially stable by 2024.
The council said they hoped that despite the closure of the five buildings they could still provide a comprehensive library service that would meet the needs of the community.
To take part in the consultation, visit the council website to fill out the survey online.
Alternatively, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207884 5159 to request a paper survey.