George Hamerton, our junior reporter at the Speak Up for Libraries lobby, visited Carnegie Library in Herne Hill, Lambeth to lend his support.
“On Wednesday 6th April, I visited the Carnegie Library in Herne Hill, to show my support for the campaigners who have been in the building for nearly a week. People are campaigning to keep the library open because the local council want to turn it into a gym. To show my support, I wrote a letter to tell them how I felt. What I didn’t know was that it would take 6 trains and over 3 hours to get there and back! Also, we couldn’t go until the afternoon as my mum was at work in the morning.
We walked to the library from the station and saw posters about the library in the windows of lots of houses. We finally arrived at the library at about 4.30pm. It is a beautiful building. I have never seen a library like it.
Outside, people were holding placards, and locals driving by tooted their car horns to show their support, as well as taxi drivers, ambulances and bus drivers. I found out that inside, there are occupiers of all ages including some ‘A’ level students who have nowhere else to study, and children younger than me.
Everyone was very friendly. People were arriving all the time, bringing supplies and flowers, and making sure the people inside were OK. I was told people from the local community and further away have brought supplies like food, bedding and toiletries. It was funny because they even gave me some juice and made my mum a cup of tea after our long journey! Then a man arrived asking if the occupiers knew that a camera had been put up on the street corner facing the back entrance of the library. Later two policemen came to make sure everyone was OK.
I was surprised that some people recognised me from the time I spoke at the Speak Up For Libraries rally in February. Laura Swaffield came out to the railings at the front of the library. She told me ‘We are really buoyed up by the support we are getting’. She also told me how the occupation started, with about 80 people after the library closed last Thursday. At first, people could leave the building to go home and come back but by last Friday the council said they had to stop, so now when a person leaves the library, they cannot come back in. There are now about 20 people inside.
I spoke to some local residents outside the library. One is a retired teacher and she used to bring her classes to the Carnegie Library, then her own children and grandchildren. She said the library is a ‘hub of the community’. Another lady told me she spent the first night in the library but after she went home to rest, she wasn’t allowed back in so now she stands outside every day. She told me ’the library is used by every age group for studies, for warmth, and events’ She told me about the community spirit. She also said that other local libraries are full of people studying. If more libraries close, where will these students go?
Before we left, the occupiers made an announcement about a march taking place this Saturday, starting at 11.30am from the Carnegie Library. They said ‘you are welcome to come and bring friends and family’. They chanted ‘March with us on Saturday. Libraries are here to stay!’
I felt moved when I saw how much the library means to the people of Herne Hill.”
Listen to George read his letter of support….