CONCERNS have been expressed over a library as no organisations have come forward to run it to replace now cut council staff.
The Grade II star listed Manor House Library in Old Road in Lee is now to only offer a reduced service until March 31. The library with extensive rooms for community activities and meetings was among three Lewisham council decided to axe staff in a bid to slash £1million from its library budget.
The council has been seeking organisations to run their own businesses and services from the buildings whilst continuing to run a community library. However in the case of Manor House Library a suitable group was not found before permanent staff were withdrawn.
Peter Richardson, from the Manor House Users Group, is hugely concerned about the arrangements for the library and the maintenance of the historic Georgian building.
He told The Mercury: “Its all been a bit of a disaster and there seems to have been little preparation for the change over. A sign has been put up to say that the library will only be open now for 24 hours a week whereas before it was open for 65 hours on a seven day rota. The professional permanent library staff have now left and so mostly the opening hours will be manned by a security person. The council is to deliver books to the library but users will use a machine to register books in and out. We understand there is to a peripatetic member of staff who will visit on one day a week but we are not sure of the arrangements for things like the reading groups.
“The sign giving the opening hours states that during all other time the gates to the library will be locked – so I am not sure how that leaves arrangements for use of the rooms for activities, meetings and events like weddings.”
Mr Richardson is also hugely concerned about the maintenance of the building which overlooks Manor House Gardens.
He said: “Clearly there has been no attempt at clearing or tidying the grassed areas or any attempt
to repair the pot holed driveway. It is a Grade II star listed building which means it is just a notch away from Grade I.”
A spokeswoman from Lewisham Council said: “We’re confident that a good community library, bringing enhanced benefits to residents and users, will be developed at Manor House just as we’ve seen at Forest Hill and Torridon Road. We hope to recommend a partner organisation to Mayor and Cabinet early next year.
“The library service at Manor House is still running, with a reduction in core opening hours to 24 hours per week. This is being supported by security staff who, as well as taking responsibility for the safety and security of visitors, library stock and equipment, also facilitate the hiring of rooms in the building. While core opening hours are reduced during this interim period, it is possible for this to be extended to support requests from hirers.”
The library is to open from 9.30am until 1.30pm on Mondays, 9.30am until 5.30pm on Tuesdays, 11am until 7pm on Thursdays and 11am until 3pm on Saturdays.