Libraries consultation – SPRA response

  1. INTRODUCTION

1.1. This document outlines the immediate and short-term response of Spring Park Residents Association (SPRA) following the announcement of Croydon Council’s Section 114 notice and the subsequent publication of its Recovery Plan.  The Plan proposed a short list of 5 Branch Libraries to close (among them Shirley). The Council’s Public consultation, launched in early January, offered individuals the opportunity to provide feedback on the plans.  As a community organisation with membership of over 2000 households in Shirley, representing approximately two-thirds of the total in Spring Park, SPRA’s voice is one which deserves to be heard.

1.2 As an Association, SPRA recognises the financial crisis facing the Council and its need to make substantial savings.  At the same time, as a membership organisation with responsibility to Shirley residents, SPRA is obliged to take the views of members on Library closure and to reflect those to the Council in its response. Gathering this information was done by asking members to complete an online and printed survey. In constructing the survey SPRA had no pre-conceived view of the survey results, nor did it have a preferred position. In addition to encouraging SPRA members to respond to its own survey it encouraged them to respond to the Council’s own survey.  It also provided information via its SPAN magazine to facilitate members in completing the survey.

1.3 In parallel with this, the Association’s Library Closure Working Group was set up to gather information, research possible alternatives to full library closure, and take further soundings amongst interested parties in the Shirley community. In these tasks it is grateful for the role played by the Council, its officers, our Councillors and MP in providing information concerning the library service and offering webinars to explore possibilities.  Outcomes from this work are listed below.

2. SURVEY FINDINGS

Details of the SPRA survey construction, methodology and take-up are shown in the attached, together with detailed results. The headline findings of the survey are as follows :

  • 205 surveys were completed by SPRA members representing 10% of the total SPRA membership. (an additional 24 respondents were not SPRA members, though all but five of these were Shirley residents)
  • 95% of people of all respondents indicated they did not want to ‘lose’ the Library.
  • 8 out of 10 people wanted the Library to remain as it currently is, on the current site.
  • Nearly 9 in every 10 respondents indicated they would be happy for the Library to become part of a ‘Shared community amenity’, on the current site.
  • More than one in three (38%) of those responding to the survey said they would be prepared for the Library to form part of a newly developed facility (with the possibility of outside investment and a residential element), on the current site.

3. OTHER INITIATIVES

3.1  SPRA decided to facilitate the setting up of a ‘Friends of Shirley Library’ Group, with the objective of bringing together all those individuals and community groups with a desire to seek solutions to avoid removal of a library facility in Shirley. Though SPRA is not a formal member of this new group it has supported it by co-opting to it a member of the SPRA Library Working Group.

The Friends group is at an early stage in its work. At present it is actively pursuing possible plans to relocate the Library to a site different from the current one, as well as seeking funding and enlisting volunteers.

3.2  In addition, the SPRA Libraries Working Group is examining information on the existing Library building. The Council-provided data suggests that the building may not be a long-term option to house the Library facility (whatever future form that might take) owing to its age and state of repair. 

Shirley lacks a coherent high street, with shops being scattered along Wickham Road.  However, the Library building is regarded by Shirley’s residents as a lone community focal point, and the ‘heart’ of the neighbourhood, standing as it does at the main crossroads. SPRA feels that for the wholesale replacement of the Library as the ‘hub’ of the community, by a block of flats alone would be very much to the detriment of residents.

The building has some architectural merit, being in the art deco style. Bearing in mind these latter points in the site’s favour, SPRA believes it is important to explore all avenues for the retention of the current building or if this is not possible, to look at developing a library facility on the current site.

4. CONCLUSIONS /RECOMMENDATIONS

SPRA has noted the views expressed in its survey regarding the importance of retaining a library in some format on the current site.  It believes the survey results are broadly representative of the views of the wider community. SPRA therefore

4.1 URGES THE COUNCIL TO CONSIDER THE PRESENT LIBRARY SITE AS THE BEST PLACE TO HOUSE A LIBRARY FACILITY.

4.2 ASKS THE COUNCIL TO ACTIVELY CONSIDER THE USE OF THE PRESENT LIBRARY SITE FOR A NEWLY-DEVELOPED COMMUNITY HUB FACILITY (TO INCLUDE A LIBRARY AND OTHER AMENITIES). IT IS UNDERSTOOD THAT THIS MIGHT INVOLVE A RESIDENTIAL ELEMENT.

The Friends of Shirley Library will continue its work, currently focussed on finding an alternative site for a Library.  Consequently, SPRA

4.3 ASKS THE COUNCIL TO SUPPORT THE FRIENDS OF SHIRLEY LIBRARY GROUP IN ITS EFFORTS TO BUILD A COMMUNITY/VOLUNTARY FRAMEWORK FOR A LIBRARY (IRRESPECTIVE OF THE LOCATION OF THE LIBRARY)

SPRA’s LIBRARY SURVEY

Construction

The survey questions were compiled with the aim of encouraging high engagement and completion rates, with a limited number of questions and binary responses. The objective was to yield quantitative data based on a number of possible future scenarios for Shirley Library.

The four questions asked respondents to state their views/preferences on ‘no change’ (Q1), ‘Library as part of shared community facility’ (Q2), ‘Library as part of a newly developed, shared community facility with a possible residential element’ (Q3), and ‘close down the library’ (Q4). 

Questions 1-3 were based on a library being based on the current site.

Methodology

The survey was made available online via SurveyMonkey and published in SPRA’s monthly membership magazine in February.  It was also promoted on social media and on SPRA’s website.  There was a small participation in the survey from non-SPRA members and non-Shirley residents -questions 5 and 6 of survey asked for such information and the figures are shown in the findings below.

The online survey launched from 18 January, while the SPAN version was available from 28 January. Statistics show responses received to 7 March.

There were 205 completed surveys from SPRA members (representing 10% of total SPRA membership).  A further 24 were received from other Shirley residents who are non-members.

Survey questions:

Q1          I want the Library and the facilities it offers to remain in its current form. YES/NO

Q2          I want the Library to continue on the current site, as part of a shared community access venue. YES/NO

Q3          I want the Library to continue on the current site, as part of a shared community access venue, in a newly developed facility which might involve outside investors potentially seeking to incorporate a residential element.  YES/NO

Q4          I am prepared to lose Shirley Library as I accept that the Council needs to make budget cuts.       YES/NO

Q5          I am a SPRA Member.  YES/NO

Q6          I am a Shirley resident.  YES/NO

Survey results (all respondents)