A Big Society Library Blueprint

As the government strive for empowered local communities and for benefits from services run by locals for locals, surely we should be looking at existing examples and identifying “champions” to be used as a blueprint for the future.

Upper Norwood Library; which is the UKs only independent library, has been run by the community for the community and self-managed in all respects for 111 years, is jointly funded by Lambeth and Croydon and serves members from 5 London Boroughs. It is run at 50% of the cost of most other London Libraries

“The library has been at the very heart of Crystal Palace and withstood two world wars, its seen one London Olympics and many previous recessions and has always provided a fantastic service to local school-kids, pensioners, job-seekers and most people I know”  P Fewster

The department for communities and local government website outlines the following key principles that are the foundations for localism and community run projects like Upper Norwood Library.  Why then is Upper Norwood Library; which embodies everything that the government are aiming to achieve; having its funding stopped by Croydon Council?

Big Society Principles

  • Setting the foundations for a Big Society by returning power to citizens, families and communities.
  • Helping councils and local business to work together to promote economic recovery and the regeneration of deprived and run-down communities
  • beginning a new era of transparency, accountability and openness so local people can hold elected officials to account
  • Cutting red tape and central bureaucracy and freeing local councils to deliver for the public not central government.
  • Changing the balance of power in the country so power goes right back to the people giving them a genuine voice in their neighbourhood.
  • Building the Big Society by passing power to citizens and communities, encouraging action at neighbourhood level and making neighbourhoods the building blocks for all we do
  • Working to support communities overcome tensions and conflict.

The new Mary Portas backed scheme for High Street regeneration acknowledges the need for community hubs in every high street to encourage footfall and commerce.