Protesters Occupy London Library to Prevent Shutdown

In Herne Hill, South London, sits the 110-year-old Carnegie Library. On March 31, the library was supposed to be shut down for a year, to be transformed into a “healthy living centre” as planned by the Lambeth Council. Fans of the library were devastated and outraged by the decision and have organized a sit-in protest, according to The Bookseller. One spokesperson for the protesters argued that it was not up to the Lambeth Council to tear apart the beautiful and historic building, a cherished community space that “belongs to the locality.”

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“We are staying here to publicize [sic] just what Lambeth’s Labour council is doing to our local libraries – ripping the heart out of them to turn them into unwanted gyms,” says the spokesperson. Protesters have stated they will stay in the library, day and night, for as long as it takes for the council to realize its mistake. There is even a twitter page, @defendtheten, dedicated to the sit-in, in which people can stay informed on the protest and see if the dedicated campaigners need anything (like soap or food). 

Many libraries have been closing due to budget cuts, sparking a 500-person march last month.  The Financial Times reports that 525 council-run libraries across the United Kingdom have been closed since 2010 or are due to be closed in 2016. Public libraries have also been suffering. The plan to turn the Carnegie Library into a gym is not the first, and will not be the last. Unlike public and council-run libraries, gyms would provide a hefty revenue.  

Protesters are intent on showing that the libraries provide services for people across the board, and that more gyms are not necessary. “This is the only local library for a lot of people and it means more than books,” says disappointed campaigner Dorothea Bohoius who has been staying at the library with her two young children, aged 13 and 9. “It’s a community hub for people to study and work and come together. Nobody is keen on this gym idea. There are tons of gyms in walking distance, nobody needs or wants another one,” she continued. 

Lambeth Council cabinet members have not remained silent about the closure. Some feel that the protesters “are misleading residents and the public,” as said by a council spokesperson who argues that the council “has worked incredibly hard to minimize the impact of the cuts on Lambeth libraries.”  One Lambeth Council cabinet member, Cllr Jane Edbrooke, asserted: “We value libraries very highly and that’s why we’ve invested in Streatham, Clapham and West Norwood. It’s why we’ve worked very hard to minimize the impact of huge budget cuts on Lambeth’s library services and listened to residents, staff and community groups.” However, she laments that maintaining the “status quo is not an option” when it comes to budget cuts.  

According to Brixton Buzz, as of April 4 campaigners received a interim possession order, with a court hearing scheduled for May 4. Protesters argue they are doing nothing illegal and have been receiving support from a wide range of people and organizations.


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