St James St Library Campaign

NEW! 12th sept 07

Sorry to not write for a while – been busy on the campaign! At the West Walthamstow Community Council on Monday many people quizzed Clive Morton and Geraldine Reardon about the closure of the library as well as the cutbacks at William Morris Gallery, Vestry House Museum, etc.  Questions were asked about what had happened to the books, how much money had been spent on new books, compared to money spent on consultants and fishtanks (!) and what was planned for the building, and their estimated costs of making the building accessible to disabled people, and they said they would respond before the next community council in November.

In the mean time we are asking lots more questions and doing as much research as we can as well as planning further activity.  We are not giving up!  More update to follow shortly, but in the mean time here is a couple of emails. First, one I sent to Councillor Keith Rayner, elected head of asset management (who are currently
considering what to do with the building).  I am awaiting a response to this email.

Underneath that is an email sent to Lorna Lee, officer in charge of the libraries service.

Please do contact these individuals, as well as clive morton and co (see what can i do)

Also if there are any readers out there connected to the hale end library users or any other local library campaigns please do get in touch – we’d love to hear from you!

Email to Keith Rayner (

Dear Mr Rayner,

I have been advised that responsibility for St James St library has now been handed over to Portfolio management / Disposals, which i understand is your area of responsibility as elected councillor and portfolio holder for Corporate Services.
As you are no doubt aware, the closure of the library has caused considerable concern and anger amongst local residents, not only because of the shocking lack of transparency in the decision making and implementation of the decision, and the sham consultation, but also because the library was an extremely valuable local resource, providing vitally needed educational support particularly for the local children and schools. It was also the only public building providing a focal point for the whole community in the St James St / High St Ward area. I am not sure if you are familiar with the area but it houses a community where there is a strong, diverse and growing base of local activism, and a high level of deprivation, both of which shape a desire to hold on to our publicly assessible community assets, particularly those which benefit children, and those which treat the causes rather than just the effects of community deprivation.
I am involved with or in contact with a number of different local groups and have heard various rumours as to the likely fate of this building, both before and after the Children’s Fund project upstairs comes to an end in March 2008. I would be grateful if you could advise me as to – what options are being considered, (also whether one of these options includes consideration of the promises that were made to the St James Library Campaign regarding considering a future community library), when the matter of the use or disposal of the building is going to be discussed in the relevant committees, and at cabinet, and also if any papers have been prepared outlining the options or proposals for the building, I would be grateful if you could forward those to me. I would also be grateful for any other information you could give me on this matter.
I would also be grateful if you could tell me if any efforts are being made to seek external sources of funding for community buildings including libraries in the West Walthamstow area (and if so, which sources of funding are being considered). I note that in past cabinet minutes from a few months back (I think December 06), this last item was marked ‘red’ in the Forward Plan ie it appeared to have stalled. If this area is not within your area of responsibility I would be grateful if you could advise which elected councillor’s portfolio it falls within.
Sadly, it would seem there is a yawning gap between the rhetoric of encouraging grassroots involvement in service provision and strengthening the local community, and the way decisions have been taken and implemented by the council in regard to the St James St Library. I am aware that the (still embargoed?) Audit Commission report has criticised the council’s Leisure & Culture department for its communication and consultation, and that Waltham Forest councillors have also acknowledged failings in this matter and indeed over many other matters over a number of years (having trawled through plenty of minutes, and also having had difficulties getting any response from some of my elected councillors). I hope that the council will now start to demonstrate that it really is committed to working constructively and imaginatively with the local community in the St James area / High St ward to remedy some of these problems, and I look forward to hearing from you.

(Awaiting response from Cllr Keith Rayner)
Email to Lorna Lee (

Dear Mrs Lee,
Regarding the book stock, please can you send me some more specific
information? ie how many of the books from st james have been redistributed
to other libraries, (and have these all been reshelved?) and how many
have been pulped or otherwise disposed of. i assume that records were
kept, for the integrity of the council’s investment?

i appreciate that at the time of the unannounced closure, some books
will have been on loan, so i would be grateful if you could also give me
the figures of the number of books held on the shelves of st james st, and
how many were on loan at the time of closure.

Response from Lorna Lee

“At the time of closure, there were a total of 17055 books on the
catalogue for St James St, of which 3134 were on loan ie 13912 on the
The books were put in storage as a temporary measure. These are now
being sorted through. Some are being returned to libraries, eg Hale
End. Others will not be returned to the shelves as a result of poor
condition or if they are no longer deemed suitable stock. Once the
stock has been sorted in this way, any stock not returned to the shelves
will be removed from the library catalogue and disposed of, for example
through a book sale.”

(do people think this answers the question?)


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

There are now fewer books in Central and Hale End libraries compared to before the refurbishment. Bigger libraries will need more books on the shelves and not less. What is the move behind this?

Regarding stock in St James – how many books are to be disposed off through book sale? Remembered some books being sold before closure at pittance! Some were in fairly good condition.

So come on councillors – do you have the answers to the MYSTERY OF THE DISAPPEARING BOOKS IN WALTHAM FOREST? Unless you hire detectives like Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew or even Alex Rider to name a few famous ones!

Can the council publicise when this book sale going to take place? Are the sale proceeds going back to the library or funding other council projects?


Comment by Lana

hear, hear! please make these views known to the council using the email addresses above or at the councillors surgeries – remember the councillors are the ones that are ultimately accountable for this situation. also why should the books be sold off at a loss when the community is crying out for these books to be on the library shelves? note the council is supposed to respond to emails within 5 days as stated its own guidelines, but you often have to chase them for a response and then chase them again to get some actual figures! it is always good to ask questions, rather than just comments which they seem to ignore.

Comment by tubenightmare

The council recently said it spent £70,000 on a library consultant, whose advice seems to have been ‘sack librarians’. That £70,000 is exactly what it would have cost to keep St James Street library open. Economics of the madhouse.

Comment by Walthamster

Does anyone know how much all those books were worth that disappeared during the refurbishment of the Central Library? This is important information – I think we’d all like to know the cost of our Council casually losing stuff! One cannot help thinking that such catastrophic mismanagement and incompetence are the only reasons why there would be any holes in the budget.

Comment by Alke

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