Plans For Putney Library To Become Cultural Centre

And to develop the music library into a centre of excellence

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On 27th May the Putney Society held a meeting to discuss the future of Putney Library. The meeting was chaired by Colleen Samuel of Friends of Putney Library and Sue Rolfe of The Putney Society. Guest speakers were Diana Edmonds – Head of Libraries at GLL, and Clare Longworth of the De Morgan Centre

Sue Rolfe opened the meeting and introduced Diana Edmonds, who explained that Putney Library has been managed by GLL since 1 April 2013. GLL is under contract to Wandsworth Council and monitored by them.

GLL was formed in 1993 and is a charitable social enterprise, owned by staff. Unlike John Lewis there is no profit sharing. Instead any profits are considered ‘surplus’ and invested back into the services provided. It is the UK’s largest leisure operator, with over 120 facilities and 27 libraries. GLL believes in Better Service, Better Communities, Better People and Better Business. The GLL contract enshrines the library service.

Libraries should provide a wide range of books, e-books, cd’s, dvd’s, information on a wide range of topics, good access to IT, and space to study.

Wandsworth was part of the London Libraries Consortium, and withdrawal was part of the GLL’s bid. There are 17 members of the Consortium, but some of those have very limited book funds. Many of them are borrowing more than they’re lending and that has caused problems financially. Wandsworth became the highest lender, lending 2 items for every 1 item borrowed. 30,000 items were on loan to libraries across London, with 10,000 borrowed. The cost of borrowing was quite high, with staff having to find the item and transport it to the requesting library, compared with cheaper and more rapid purchase from Amazon and the Internet. There is also access to normal inter-lending providers such as the British Library.

GLL believe in good staff training and moving staff about to help them gain experience and in the interests of career progression.

Free wi-fi is in place, and GLL will be improving hardware and software. They want to improve printing, so that someone at home with a computer, but no printer, could send info to the library to be printed. They also want to provide more training sessions for those in need of IT experience. Currently, if you go to the Council’s library website you can download an eBook free (not a very extensive library yet) and you can also download some music free.

Putney and Balham already have extended opening hours and the ambition is to extend hours even more.

The aim is to make Putney the cultural centre and to develop the music library into a centre of excellence. There is a lot of space in Putney Library that could be utilised better. Residents can offer up suggestions and ideas. GLL hopes to increase the number of events to encourage the community feel of the library.

GLL has offered exhibition space in Putney Library to the De Morgan Collection and room for some staff/volunteers who work on the Collection.

Clare Longworth, Curator and Manager of the De Morgan Centre, then explained that the West Hill site they occupy with Wandsworth Museum is surplus to the Council’s requirements. The old library building at West Hill is not listed and efforts to obtain Grade 2 listing have been unsuccessful. The De Morgan Centre is passionate about keeping as much of the exhibition in London as they can. They are looking at other partnerships too, as well as loans of some of the Collection to other museums. They want to be able to continue their adult learning programs, events, lectures and exhibitions. Clare Longworth already runs activities for children and has offered to help redesign the front of the library, with an interior designer. Having the de Morgan collection would help establish GLL’s idea of the library as a cultural centre.

Colleen Samuel thanked Diana Edmonds and Clare Longworth and explained that the Friends of Putney Library considered that it was important for residents to know what GLL was doing and to have an opportunity to comment.

Some thirty people attended the meeting. Questions and comments from the floor, with answers, are as follows:

1. The future of Wandsworth Museum: Wandsworth Museum will also have to move, which is a blow. It may be moving to shared space at Battersea Library, but we await an announcement from The Museum.

2. A coffee shop in Putney Library? GLL are happy to consider this as, for example, it would be welcomed by students who come in and spend all day in the library.

3. Improvements to the library entrance: Both speakers are open to this. There was a suggestion of moving staff to the front, as there used to be, instead of having machines there. A single point of contact at the front entrance would be a good idea.

4. The use of the London Library Consortium: There is a moral question as to whether the libraries that are better off should help lend to those who are in more vulnerable positions, where residents may be in more need. Diana Edmonds explained that Wandsworth withdrew from the London Library Consortium in February 2013. The inter-library lending service, which is wider than the consortium, will continue as GLL has made an arrangement with specific libraries for it to do so and library users should receive a better service in future. GLL will always respond to requests for specialist books.

5. Newspapers – the questioner emphasised the usefulness of several weeks of back copies. There is no threat to this service.

6. Music scores, especially for choir use. Diana Edmonds stressed that GLL only has plans to enhance this service.

7. Will the de Morgan Centre in future provide children’s activities as now? Clare Longworth stressed that they are keen to continue and develop activities for children.

8. Two Roehampton councillors, Sue McKinney and Peter Carpenter, raised their concern about plans to demolish Roehampton library with no certainty of a replacement. RH library has lost hours as well and they have not been restored as they have in Putney. Space is needed for students in Roehampton to study. There was also a request for closing days in Roehampton and Putney to be different. Diana Edmonds will look at hours across the piece and said it is not her impression that Roehampton will lack a library in future. John Horrocks from the Putney Society added the Roehampton Library should remain open until the new library is ready and that the Putney Society doesn’t want the library in Roehampton demolished.

9. The recent user survey: Beccie North of Putney Library said that it would be possible to make the results available.

Victoria Diamond
Convenor, Community Panel of the Putney Society

Andrée Rushton
Friends of Putney Library

May 29, 2014