– Press release –

Survey links looting, literacy & libraries

A survey of more than 400 South London residents has revealed that a majority of respondents believe there is a link between low levels of literacy and last summer’s riots.

Residents from the five boroughs covering the Crystal Palace area of the capital were surveyed by the Upper Norwood Library Campaign in June 2012. The findings showed that 51% of respondents believe there is a link between low levels of literacy and last summer’s riots.

The survey, which covered Croydon, Lambeth, Southwark, Bromley and Lewisham, revealed that 97% thought it was vital that councils continue to fund libraries, while 93% said they thought all Londoners deserve a library within walking distance.

Croydon was the epicentre of some of the most disturbing images during the riots of 2011, while the MP for Croydon Central Gavin Barwell has been highlighting illiteracy as an issue of major concern.

The findings echoed the views gathered during the Evening Standard’s Literacy Campaign in which 96% of those surveyed thought it did not make sense to close libraries when literacy rates were falling.

The Upper Norwood Library Campaign survey showed that 88% believed libraries help to keep local shops and businesses thriving. Three-quarters of the local community also said they thought it was unfair that Croydon was receiving major regeneration funding while Crystal Palace town centre was not getting any investment from Croydon.

Over 90% believed that the Croydon Conservatives, in their attitude to the Upper Norwood Joint Library, were not living up to their national party’s policy of promoting the Big Society. Croydon residents make up more than 40% of the library’s membership, more than all the other boroughs covered by the library.

The findings follow a meeting on 9th July in which Croydon Council voted to end the joint agreement with Lambeth Council that governs Upper Norwood Library, undermining the future of the 112 year old service. The Upper Norwood Joint Library is the only library in the UK which is its own library authority, and is led by a chief librarian. The Campaign has argued the efficiency savings of this model could be replicated to save many threatened libraries across the UK.

Robert Gibson, a spokesman for UNLC and a member of The Crystal Palace & Norwood Chamber of Commerce, said: ‘Croydon Council can be under no doubt that the entire community of Crystal Palace is united in its desire to keep its library. We have all been lobbying Croydon, from tiny children to the very elderly.

‘The economic, educational and social justifications for maintaining funding for a library which serves a growing catchment of five boroughs are overwhelming. We have got to hope that Croydon Council leader Mike Fisher will see reason.’

For more information, please contact:
Robert Gibson 07748 182234

Survey Details:
405 residents of Croydon, Lambeth, Bromley, Southwark and Lewisham completed the survey online between 10th June and 1st July 2012.

Among these:
• Two-thirds (67%) are women, 33% men
• 24% are aged under 35, 51% are 36-55, 25% are over 55
• 38% are parents
• 46% live in Croydon, 24% in Lambeth, 15% in Bromley, 11% in Southwark and 2% in Lewisham

Selection of quotes from respondents:
“It is a disgrace that this library will have to close as a result of the Council withdrawal of funds. I will never vote Conservative again – you give monies to all kinds of persons who deserve nothing but a cause that actually will benefit  people gets no funding- you all should be ashamed of yourselves”

“It takes away a vital asset from the community and highlights Croydon’s laissez-faire attitude to the residents on the edge of the borough.”

“Libraries are very important in local communities, as a hub of information especially for the old, poor and children. Withdrawing funding for local libraries effects those most in need in our society.”

“We pay council tax and should have a say as to how this money is spent. Libraries are an essential part of society.”

“It seems pointless. The cost involved in keeping the library open is relatively trivial in the context of the overall budget of the Council.”

“Totally irresponsible short-sighted cost cutting. They are shooting themselves in the foot by withdrawing funds from a very efficient library  that makes the most of their money.”

“I think that the library is crucial to the sense of community in the local area and it will be a crying shame if it is closed down. ”

“If Lambeth can support our Library, for the small amount involved I can’t understand why Croydon won’t.”

“Simply disgraceful.”

“Outrageous! …The library is a very big part of your community and it would be unbelievably mad to close it. We live a walking distance from the library, as a mother of 2, this is important as we walk there with our children to teach them of the value of books, learning and community. It would makes us very sad if Croydon Council did not value us, the people of Crystal Palace.”

– Ends –