Don’t be Afraid; Take a Leaf out of Our Book

In my day job I am CEO of the London Early Years Foundation.  Yes, another kind of LEYF.  We are the largest  childcare charitable social enterprise in the UK with a business model designed to ensure children from all families can access high quality childcare but especially those from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds.  We know that really good quality early education can be extremely helpful in supporting children get a head start ready for school and the future.

The business model is the framework but the pedagogy is the means of operations and we have one that is wrapped around the cultural capital of language.  That means ensuring staff understand the power of language and use every tool at their disposal to help increase and enrich  children’s vocabulary, understanding and oracy. Naturally, books and the ability to talk about them provide fantastic provocation to this and I firmly believe that libraries are central to this.  We are currently seeing an increase in children with language and communication difficulties at a time when libraries are needed more than ever.

So in a culture of continual library closures described by CIPFA as catastrophic (105 closed in 2016)   what can we do to keep them open?  I joined the Trustee Board of our local library Upper Norwood Library Hub. We are a practical group of people recognising that we have to do our best to save our library.  Remember, once the library is closed, the buildings are destroyed or move into the hands of the developers and are most likely converted to high end flats, killing the community library stone dead and there will be no Lazarus revival.

So, let’s be practical. To those who worry about libraries no longer having books, we say that is not the case.  Come and see we have books and yes we also have a coffee shop but so has Waterstones and Foyle’s and that’s considered marketing genius. We also have a Library of Things to encourage new hobbies and skills to space short Londoners, a homework area, language classes, toddler groups, health sessions and a choir.  We have a building that needs utilisation for more than just library hours. We have therefore invited the Attic Arts Club into the library in the evening.

It is a social enterprising solution designed to use the library as a community hub. We have the support of Lambeth and Croydon. Croydon central library was the fifth most used library in the country last year with just under a million visitors. They both back us because we all share the intention because we share the value of community library.  They recognise that the smaller out-lying libraries have to find a socially pragmatic solution to coping within wider economic and government forces.

Do you want a library? Or do you want the memory of one? If you do then please don’t let your fear of change and personal ideology threaten the survival of one of our greatest community assets. Let’s work together and rise above the naysayers and think of the greater good.

One thought on “Don’t be Afraid; Take a Leaf out of Our Book

  1. Maureen says:

    Hi June
    I leave in a small rural village and the library closed down over 2 years ago, the local Trawden Forest community centre CIO has taken over the building and will be reopening the library along with a volunteer run community shop and hub on November 20th, we have over 100 volunteers signed up to volunteering in the shop and library, its been hard work converting the building and raising funds, but its brought the village together in a common cause and will be a fantastic facility for young and old.

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