Home » Libraries, Non-US » Concerns over Forest Hill Library plans to rent desk space

Concerns over Forest Hill Library plans to rent desk space

29 June 2017

From The Bookseller:

Forest Hill Library in Lewisham has started renting out desk space at the cost of £200 a month.

The library has 12 desks to rent and said the “dedicated co-working space” will be for the exclusive use of creatives, freelancers, entrepreneurs, social enterprises and charities. The space comes equipped with lockable storage and wifi.

. . . .

Dawn Finch, library campaigner and former president of CILIP, told The Bookseller that she had “great concerns” over who will be profiting from the enterprise. “Whilst I fully understand that in times of austerity, a public library may well need to explore creative methods of income generation, I have great concerns over the type of companies that are circling community libraries in search of a profit. I feel that as some library groups are desperately in need of an urgent solution to funding problems, they will be forced to make decisions that are, in themselves, unethical.

“The provision of a library service is a legal and statutory requirement for every local authority. As they wash their hands of the problem by handing libraries over to small groups, they force community groups to desperately try to hang on alone. This will inevitably lead to some groups making decisions that are not inclusive, and do not serve all in the wider community.”

Author Catherine Johnson said: “I couldn’t believe this. It makes me incredibly sad and angry. What a crass attempt at squeezing cash for locals. The whole ethos of libraries as free to their communities is broken by this initiative. Libraries were set up to be the universities of the working class: a place to study, to do job applications. These opportunities are now denied to all but those to pay. A sign that volunteer run spaces do not work.”

. . . .

However, the library has defended the move, stressing that the space was previously unused and that all revenue will be reinvested into the running of the library.

Tara Cranswick, founder and director of V22, said: “The desk space we’re renting out was previously unused and all funds received will go back into the library. It’s a large space that used to house the teen section and film clubs and events, but now the teen section has been moved into the main library and the clubs and events in the community space next door. All the desks in the main library are still there to use free of charge.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Libraries, Non-US

25 Comments to “Concerns over Forest Hill Library plans to rent desk space”

  1. Once again, a sensible solution to generate some income is being twisted into a dastardly scheme to deprive the public of something they haven’t used, and don’t own. Will the Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) get a life?

    • I basically agree, but can we please find some more specific and useful pejoratives than “Social Justice Warriors”? It’s been so broadly applied and overused it’s lost all meaning. To me, a Social Justice Warrior is a sparklegender blue foxkin who insists on made-up pronouns and has a foot-long list of triggers; but to some people, I am a Social Justice Warrior because I believe in racial equality, gay and trans rights, a social safety net, and not deliberately being a giant jerk to people who aren’t really, really asking for it. And there’s probably some loud and proud Nazi out there who would consider you a Social Justice Warrior because you disagree with dragging people of certain hues behind trucks. It’s gotten to the point where it says more about the person using it than whoever they’re attempting to criticize.

      • To me, a Social Justice Warrior is someone who does their level best to impose their beliefs on everyone else in the world. Live and let live is anethma to them — everyone must live by *their* dictates and no others. Diversity of thought is not allowed — we must think what we’ve been told to think, anything else is wrongthink/badthink, and must be eradicated.

        • I could get behind that definition if it were widely agreed upon and consistently applied. But too many people who would eagerly apply the “S J W” label to people who want to impose beliefs they disagree with on the world seem to see no problem with those who want to impose beliefs they agree with. I still feel the phrase would be best off retired from use.

      • i think about that too sometimes Alice. To my family, social justice is instilled in our religion, and doesnt remotely mean the slur, rather resisting certain of those who are rigid in their cruelties to innocents, who are unjust toward vulnerables, who have a brutal desire to harm and inflict injury on children, old people, the poor, the devastated–thus to help find peace, recompense, justice in the deepest terms for those who are given none by biased others.

        ‘Warrior’ is the mockery name many in the military call men who boast but who have never served in war , men who pull their shivs without honor– the word ‘warrior’ too has another meaning, one of clarity, strength, conduct that is not driven by ego.

        • Felix J. Torres

          The evolving usage seems to be that the honorable term warrior is by itself pure and integral and needs no qualifier. Thus, any qualifier devalues the term and becomes ironic at best, mockery most commonly.

          As in “weekend warrior” which seems to be evolving into an outright insult:


      • I’m with you, Alice. People have to be so nasty about something that doesn’t deserve the level of disdain they spew on it. They oddly enough don’t want anyone “imposing” their ideas on them, but aren’t shy in the least in imposing theirs on others. There are none so blind, as they say.

        The library is looking for a way to make money. I think it’s way too expensive, but it’s probably a lot cheaper than maintaining an office. It’s hard to keep libraries funded, the tax dollar certainly doesn’t do it around here. People don’t want to pay for schools, libraries, roads or fire departments, but all of that had dang well be there is they want or need it. SMH

        If the space didn’t have any other use (and it sounds as though things were moved to other, better locations), then what’s the harm?

  2. £200 a month?

    Yikes! I can hang out at Starbucks for a month for less than that, and slurp coffee, too.

    And, uh, I do a lot of work on the computer at several local libraries… FOR FREE, including WiFi.

    • If you hang around Starbucks all day *slurping* your coffee, I doubt the other regulars would let you last a month.

      Sorry, but “slurping” is not synonymous with “drinking” or “sipping”. It’s actually considered by a lot of people to be a rude and annoying habit. Writers should understand the importance of distinctions like that.

      • I don’t think James is the rude or annoying type, Shawna.

        If anyone around here is rude and annoying, it’s probably me, although I don’t slurp.

        • Hmm. The proprietor of an establishment has the privilege to be rude and annoying, if he or she so wishes. However, such establishments tend to have very few customers.

          So we have a contradiction here – TPV has many customers, so it follows that PG is not rude and annoying. At least not here.

          His life outside of these walls I am not qualified to comment on – although I would note that Mrs. PG would have to be a very understanding woman…

          (BTW, there is one, and only one Starbucks menu item that I can tolerate – the caramel frappucino with whipped cream. I do “slurp” the last bits of whipped cream out of the bottom. Although only in private.)

          • “Hmm. The proprietor of an establishment has the privilege to be rude and annoying, if he or she so wishes. However, such establishments tend to have very few customers.”

            LOL. Check out the British TV sitcom “Black Books” on YouTube. Surly, misanthropic bookstore owner Bernard Black is the epitome of rude as he struggles to keep his tiny store going. Hilarious and worth watching.

        • Thank you for the kind words, PG. When I slurp coffee, I try to do it quietly and inconspicuously. 🙂

      • Writers should understand the importance of distinctions like that.

        Writers aren’t special.

  3. Who would pay that much for a desk rental inside a library? Does it have an electric fence to keep the pee-soaked homeless people and tinfoil hat wearers a good ten feet away?

    • Sounds like it’s in a separate area away from the riff raff :o)

      Years ago when I was without the internet for ten days I got desperate enough to book an hour at my local library. The computer keys were curiously greasy and the chap next to me sucked toffees the whole time. The next user booked on my computer stood over me for the last ten minutes of my hour.

      • @ Lexi

        TG that I use my own laptop at the library with the FREE WiFi. The public computers, as you’ve noted, leave much to be desired… or even tolerated! 🙁

  4. Unused space? In a library?

    That’s by their own choice. Libraries have no shortage of books, which come in by the hundreds via donations, and plenty more available at the county and state level, all already paid for. And shelves aren’t *that* expensive.

    No, what they’re doing is forcing people to pay again for something that they’ve already paid for once – the “public” library is supported by taxes. Everyone gets to pay whether they use it or not. And then, apparently, pay again…

    How long before they decide to charge to check books out? After all, the money would all go back to the library…

    • Question is whether taxes (hypothetically at least, before the standard government corruptocrat rake-off) pay for the whole thing. Many things are not paid for entirely by taxes.

      Somewhat of a case in point – I pay taxes for the local University (and Community College, too). I am allowed to use their collection – but not check any items out. Only students (theoretically paying the additional costs) are allowed to do so. Extra money, extra privilege.

    • How long before they decide to charge to check books out?

      User fees like paying to swim at the public pool? Renting out a municipal hall? Riding a city owned bus? City owned water system?

      All those things are supported by taxes. Looks like folks are being forced to pay again for something they have already paid for.

      • Felix J. Torres

        Or perhaps those services are merely subsidized by taxes instead of fully funded. Service fees can serve as a way to moderate usage and limit consumption. Even small fees can make people question if they really need that particular service.

    • To give some context to “shelves aren’t ‘that’ expensive”…

      1 column of library shelving would cost you between $600 and $700 in the US, and I expect it is relatively comparable in the UK where this story is from. If you have enough space for 12 desks, it would likely fit about 15-20 columns, depending on how the space is configured. That is $9000-$14000. I’d say that’s pretty expensive for any library, but especially for UK libraries since their budgets are slashed to the bone. Also, that would be money that would not be spent on buying books or other items for the public to use.

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