Changes to the library service

Changes to the library service

We will be seeking organisations to take on the management of Forest Hill, Torridon Road and Manor House library buildings.

Organisations will be able to run their own businesses and services while continuing to host a community library service in partnership with the Council us. They will run along similar lines to the existing community libraries at Blackheath, Crofton Park, Grove Park, New Cross, Sydenham and Pepys.

Organisations taking on these libraries will become responsible for repair and maintenance of the buildings and must keep opening hours the same or longer. They must also promote the love of books and reading and provide additional community benefits.

The move follows public consultation held at the end of 2015 and a decision by the Mayor in December. It also means extra investment in Deptford Lounge, Lewisham and Downham Health & Leisure Centre as they become the Council’s three hub libraries. Catford library will change as part of a wider reorganisation of facilities in the ground floor of Laurence House.

A formal process to identify partner organisations for Forest Hill, Torridon Road and Manor House will take place in the coming months and it is expected that the changes will be implemented by early September 2016.


The Lewisham Library and Information Service is one of the most successful library services in London. It has often outperformed national trends, attracting increasing numbers of users and extending both opening hours and geographical reach. The service has also led the way implementing new ways to work with local communities. 

The service currently operates through seven buildings that the Council owns and manages (Catford, Deptford, Downham, Forest Hill, Lewisham, Manor House and Torridon Road) and six buildings that are owned and/or managed by community and voluntary organisations (Blackheath, Crofton Park, Grove Park, New Cross, Sydenham, and Pepys).

In the buildings run by others, the service is run relying on a self-service infrastructure supported by an outreach team. The Lewisham Model is different from other “community library” solutions in that the Council owns and manages the stock and the systems that allow residents to access the library service. The library service that is delivered in partnership with the community libraries is therefore fully integrated with the rest of the service.

The service also includes the Home Library Service that supports residents who cannot visit a library building, the Archives and the Local History Service.

Beyond traditional services such as the lending of books, reading promotions, information services, the Library & Information Service provides room hire, access to computers (PC and Apple), Wi-Fi, a vast collection of digital content (newspapers, magazines, reference material), and support to eAdmissions, parking permits and registrar services.

Rationale for changing the library service

The Lewisham Mayor’s Commission on Libraries and Adult Learning, published in 2009, defined the library service as the one that offers “unbiased access to information and works of the creative imagination” and relies on open, trusted, public spaces available to citizens.

Lewisham’s approach to the delivery of Library and Information Services reflects these principles, and the changes to the service implemented in 2011 with the introduction of community libraries, were shaped by them.

In making further change we are taking account of three specific needs:

  • The expectation of 24/7 online service provision

  • The need to sustain quality and reach, while serving a growing and changing population

  • The continued pressure on the Council to reduce expenditure.

Online service provision

The Council is increasingly moving services online, to meet the expectations and demands of our residents and service users.

However we continue to recognise the value of face-to-face interaction and the need to provide for those who – for whatever reason – seek support to access, or interpret, online resources. Library staff are particularly skilled in providing this support. Since the late 1990s public libraries have offered free access to computers, training, and support for information seekers, learners, and more. Lewisham libraries offer PCs, Apple Macs, Wi-Fi, and online collections of reference materials, eBooks, eAudio books, substantial collections of online magazines and newspapers and access to research papers.

In developing proposals for the future delivery of the service it is important to maintain the service’s ability to expand the digital presence and equip staff with even better skills to support the move to digital in years to come.