From Upper Norwood to Waterloo library workers and users joined a 500-strong march to defend all ten libraries in the south London borough of Lambeth yesterday, Saturday. The Labour-run council is driving through cuts and library closures – and wants to turn some libraries into gyms.
Ella is “only just 11”. She told the rally, “The thing that bothers me most is that it is just not fair. What will happen when the libraries are gone – where will we get our knowledge from?”
Trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners from different parts of London marched in solidarity with their struggle, which has seen protests and strikes, and a huge debate within the local Labour Party. Council leaders are under increasing pressure.
Despite the cold and rain, people young and old came out for the demonstration. A similar number mobilised last November and the campaign is going strong.
Campaigners feel the council is too close to certain business interests that could soon be running some of the library buildings.
Unison library rep Tim said, “We’re planning to strike again on 17 March, and want to escalate to two days the following week. Our branch is consulting all council members to strike for libraries – I urge everyone to vote yes. We’ll use our power to stop these library cuts.”
Cuts could lead to deskilling of the workforce, a consequence of allowing private firms to come in and run our services. The protest heard from a junior doctor who drew comparisons between their two struggles and denounced the Labour Party for imposing these cuts.
Claire: “I use Carnegie library every Friday morning – I go there with my two year old toddler. Libraries are an important social space. I think the council is corrupt and doesn’t represent me. We’re prepared to do anything it takes to defend our local library.”
Writer and local resident Will Self spoke at the rally and attacked the Labour council’s plan to turn libraries into gyms for “well-toned banker wankers cycling to nowhere”.
Michaela: “Councillors think libraries are just a selection of books and don’t understand they are a lifeline for families that don’t have money. Our campaign has united library users and workers – that’s a big strength. When they come for our libraries we are going to sit in and refuse to go.”