Upper Norwood Library to stay independent?

New Charter demonstrates a positive way forward for the Upper Norwood Joint Library.

After years of political wrangling and uncertainty as to its future, the Upper Norwood Joint Library could be celebrating its 110th anniversary year in a new spirit of harmony and cooperation.

At last week’s well attended meeting (Wednesday 27 January 2010) of the Joint Library Committee, Lambeth Chair Councillor David Malone launched the new Charter, which “serves primarily as a re-affirmation of the principles and traditions that have guided and sustained the Upper Norwood Joint Library Authority (UNJLA) since its inception in 1898.”

The document includes a number of principles that recommend a continuation of the popular and unique independent status of the Crystal Palace based service, whilst calling on all members of the Joint Library Committee to recognise “their inherent obligation to promote, support and advocate the UNJLA, both within their respective Councils and throughout the wider community.” It also reminds both of the ‘parent boroughs’ (Lambeth and Croydon) that, “considerable kudos accrues to the two parent boroughs for initiating and maintaining this unique arrangement.” The Joint Library provides a ‘stand-alone’ and self-sufficient library service that is specifically aimed at the Crystal Palace community.

London’s most cost-effective library

The Charter was launched on the same night that it was revealed that the Upper Norwood Joint Library is the most efficient library service in London!

At the 27th of January meeting, the Chief Librarian’s report revealed that the Joint Library is 50% cheaper per capita, than the average cost of library services in Greater London and 56% cheaper than those of Inner London. The analysis was based on the latest official CIPFA expenditure statistics and the audited accounts of the Joint Library.

This contradicts a number of Croydon Council press releases and statements over the past three years, which have persistently and mistakenly alleged that the Joint Library needed to show greater efficiency and that it should have its popular services ‘amended’ to become ‘more cost-effective’.

John Payne, Chair of the CPCA said, “We welcome the initiative of a Charter but are fed up with the politically motivated efforts of certain councillors who continue to denigrate the amazing service that our library offers. Imagine how much more it could offer if was properly funded and the ‘rules’ of Croydon & Lambeth’s Joint Agreement adhered to.”

Pam Gray, Secretary of the Library Campaign, said after the meeting, “Their allegations of ‘inefficiency’ have been shown to be totally groundless. On the contrary, the Upper Norwood Joint Library is much more efficient than the established library services, for instance Croydon’s Central Library has increased in cost by 200% since 1992/3, whilst their financial contribution to the Joint Library has only gone up by 19% - as of this year - compared to 18 years ago.

Crystal Palace residents pay the same Council Tax for their library services as those in other parts of Lambeth and Croydon, but only see about 65% of it invested in their own local Joint Library service. The rest presumably goes to subsidise libraries in other parts of the local boroughs.”

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