History of the Upper Norwood Library, London SE19

The Upper Norwood Joint Library (UNJL) has served Crystal Palace and the Upper Norwood cross-borough community in South London since 1898  and, from inception, the London boroughs of Lambeth and Croydon have been jointly funders. Whilst the library is funded by two boroughs it actually provides services to members from 5 boroughs as Upper Norwood or Crystal Palace is the meeting points of Croydon, Lambeth, Southwark, Bromley and Lewisham.

The library is housed in a wonderful old Victorian building, has been the heart of the Crystal palace community for over 100 years and runs reading groups, writing groups and community reading festivals and raises more £40k per annum, a considerably larger sum than any other local library. There are no other libraries within walking distance.

The Joint Library has survived two World Wars, the Great Depression of the 1930s and numerous severe recessions since it first opened to the public. It provides opportunities for life-long learning and creative browsing, an outstanding Children’s Library that helps to create a love of books and reading in our youngsters, access to information and informal education, a fantastic programme of special events and activities each year and a free, inclusive and welcoming space for the whole community to benefit from.

It is a library authority operating separately from the two funding boroughs, as covered under the provisions of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act. Library users in Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood regard the UNJL as a vital local amenity in an area with very little in the way of public buildings.

The Joint Library plays an indispensable role in Lambeth and Croydon Council fulfilment of their statutory responsibility to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service. Many residents of local wards and further afield rely heavily upon it.

The UNJL has strong links with the local community and an extensive outreach programme encompassing local organisations, schools, youth and children’s groups.

Annual programmes of special events and activities cater for all ages and interests. Regular reading and creative writing groups for adults, sessions for parents and children, imaginative and informative events for local residents (Crystal Palace Park and Read promotions, Local History Festivals and Writers’ Days to name a few), and two days of celebrations for the 110th anniversary attended by hundreds of people, all illustrate the Library’s ability to deliver vital information while meeting educational, cultural and recreational needs.