St James St Library Campaign

Love St James Street Library event
November 8, 2010, 2:52 pm
Filed under: press releases

4 July 2010

Walthamstow residents turned out on Saturday [3 July] to celebrate a much-loved building and call on the council to bring it back into community use.

“It was a beautiful sunny day,” said Mo Gallaccio, who organised the ‘Love St James Street Library’ event. “We promised to provide a fun day for all the family and we did!”


St James Street Library, closed since 2007, was decorated with flowers and artworks, including a mobile of toy animals reading books under a colourful umbrella. Supporters brought homemade cakes to share and musicians entertained the crowd. Among the decorations were banners including residents’ many ideas for community use of the building.


The ‘open-air library’ – a book-swap stall run by a group of library-lovers with donated books – attracted readers of all ages, just as the real library used to. Children who hadn’t brought a swap ‘paid’ for their books with drawings which were then displayed.

New MP Stella Creasey joined in the ‘Love St James Street Library’ event, as did councillors Clare Coghill and Liaquat Ali.

“To have two ward Councillors and an MP join us was encouraging,” said Ms Gallaccio. “We were able to make the point that there is very strong local feeling about the need for a space which serves all the community.”


Sale would be another scandal
November 8, 2010, 2:51 pm
Filed under: press releases

5 October 2010

Council plans to sell St James Street Library would create yet another Waltham Forest scandal, warn campaigners.

“With the town-centre arcade site vacant for over a decade, the EMD cinema neglected since 2003 and Walthamstow stadium still empty, surely Waltham Forest doesn’t need the anger caused by another boarded-up public building?” says Janet Wright, a member of St James Street Library Campaign.

The council admitted on Monday [4 October] that it intends to sell the library, despite Cllr Afzal Akram’s recent promise to consult local residents before putting the building on the sales list. It was closed without warning in April 2007, to save £70,000 a year towards a pay rise of £230,000 for councillors.

“The buyer would be the only person to benefit from this fire-sale of public property,” says Janet Wright. “The council has been wasting £20,000 a year on guarding the empty building, while the exterior becomes derelict. We have been asking the council to do its duty, find a tenant for the building to cover running costs in the short term, and allow part of it to be used by the community.”

The densely populated Coppermill Lane area has few facilities, so plans for yet more flats with no added infrastructure would be strongly opposed by residents.

Instead, residents have been asking the council to co-operate in putting the library back into community use. Experienced local fundraisers have offered to help reduce the council’s costs still further. Detailed proposals to form a community trust (which could bring in external funds to cover community projects in the building) have been put forward to Cllr Akram and to ward councillors, who say they would be enthusiastic.

November 8, 2010, 2:46 pm
Filed under: latest news

St James Street Library Campaign press release 7 Nov 2010

Walthamstow campaigners are racing against the clock to save their former library. And they’re calling on David Cameron’s planned Big Society Bank to back them.

Waltham Forest council wants to auction the St James Street Library building, valued at £350,000. But it has given protesters till the end of the year to offer an alternative. If they find a tenant who will let them share the building, the council will consider renting it out.

New Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy is taking campaigners to meet communities minister Greg Clark, who will be overseeing the Big Society Bank. With a cooperative lead tenant using the office space, campaigners hope to create an arts and community centre. And, they say, they have realistic plans.


“There are so many things local people want to do with the space,” says Janet Wright, of St James Street Library Campaign. “No one would consider funding us till we had use of the building, but the council wouldn’t even speak to us until last month. Being offered the chance of renting it is a breakthrough – if we can do it in the time.”

Local estate agents say the 395-square-metre building is worth about £30,000 a year in rent.

“There’s a huge unmet need in this area,” say campaigners. “The building is at the heart of a densely populated area with few public amenities. The library offered books and a social space and so much more. We can recreate part of that, and add some of the new ideas local people have come up with.”


St James Street Library was closed without consultation in 2007, sparking a campaign that has fought off earlier efforts to dispose of the building. The library was used by many old people during the day and by parents with children on the way home from primary schools. Students living in overcrowded housing did their homework there.

The council has ruled out reopening the library, which cost £70,000 a year. But local people have drawn up plans for an arts and community centre including a reading room, meeting rooms, workshops and a gallery — the borough has a large number of artists and the last council-owned artists’ workshops are currently being demolished.

“The economics of selling it to developers don’t make sense,” says Janet Wright. “We would lose an irreplaceable asset and whoever bought it would get a bargain, subsidised by the public. We don’t need more flats. We need facilities for the people living here. Leaving it empty costs at least £20,000 a year in security. If we had use of the building, we could provide many of the services that have been missing since the library closed.”

The campaigners are looking at various financing options and welcome all offers of practical and financial support from the community.


Contact Alison Griffin, or

Janet Wright,

Buy or rent the library!
November 8, 2010, 2:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

At a meeting with St James Street Library Campaign last week (20th Oct 2010), Cllr Akram said that if we can find someone who will buy or rent SJS library and allow us to use part of the ground floor, he’ll consider their offer. Otherwise he’ll put it into auction in January.

At last we’ve got a chance to make the library a well-used asset again, as it was up till the closure in 2007. It will be good for everyone if we can do it. The council will be getting income instead of paying to keep it empty. Local people will have a place to drop in and children will have space to do their homework. After three and a half years, people are still asking us when they’re going to have it back in use.

If it’s sold, it will be a bargain to the buyer. So it’s best if that’s an organisation that will at least provide community space in return for the loss of a public building.

It’s a bit frustrating to be given just over two months to accomplish this, after years of trying to persuade the council to let us show what we can do. We have supporters with professional fund-raising skills. Once we have access to the space, we’ll be able to show potential funders what we can do and how popular it is with the community. It’s harder now than if the council had let us start this before the credit crunch, but it’s not impossible.


So now we’re asking everyone to put the word out and try to get a community-friendly tenant or buyer before Christmas!


consultation – get it back quick!
July 10, 2008, 6:45 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

well after months of excuses, broken promises and chasing (the latest excuse was heavy rain!) the consultations have finally been delivered to houses in the st james st area. The council refuses to ask the right questions and they refuse to extend the deadline past 18th July despite the fact most people only received their survey today. Rest assured we’ll stay on their case about this!

In the mean time, i thought people might be interested to know how i have filled in my survey. Of course these answers are just my personal experience but thought you might find some of this useful.

q1 – more than a month ago but less than 6 months ago

q2 – no set time

q3 – no set day

Have added ‘libraries should be open mornings, afternoons and weekends’.

q4 – have ticked ‘other’ and added ‘to attempt to use reference books and borrow both fiction and non-fiction books – unsuccessfully, as reference library was closed and the books i wanted weren’t available’ AND ‘to ask librarians for assistance with looking up reference materials’

q5 – Have ticked ‘other’ and added ‘St James St Open Air Library’

q6 – have ticked ‘other’ and added ‘St James St Open Air LIbrary’, have also ticked ‘library outside borough’.

q7 – have ticked ‘other’ and added ‘St James St Open Air Library has a sense of community and a love of books that is becoming all too rare. I cannot use Central as it is too difficult to access, it has a poor range of books since most were dumped, and it is exceptionally understaffed’.

q8 – I have ticked ‘too far away’ and ‘other’ and added ‘because my local library was closed down’

q9 – i have ticked ‘other’ and added ‘re-open st james st’, ‘BETTER range of books’, ‘better trained and experienced staff’, and ‘more staff’.

q10 – i have ticked ‘very likely’

q11 – i have ticked ‘other’ and added ‘possibly, a community centre in the St James library building with a reasonable size library section. No other option is appropriate.’

q12 – I have had my little rant here. This is what I have said (I am sure you can think of your own rant!!!)

St James St Library was a great community library, value for money, staff who were knowledgable and friendly, always full of kids, people of all ages and races, and packed with a good range of books. IT was the only place to go and not spend money in this whole area. Closing it to save £70,000 is a travesty. Wasting millions on buildings whilst destroying 60% of the borough’s library books and cutting experienced staff is an outrage. The silly questions in this questionnaire seem designed to justify these outrages. No I do not want a book drop off point in a doctors surgery – I want my library back! Please ensure you take all my additional comments into account and include them in the analysis of this consultation.

the mystery of the disappearing consultation!
June 30, 2008, 4:32 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Those funny folk at the council are supposedly undertaking a consultation into the future of library provision in the st james st area.  Mysteriously, though, none of the campaigners or people we’ve asked so far, have received a consultation, even though Lorna Lee (head of Library Service) told us she sent them out to every resident within about a half mile radius of the library, about 2 weeks ago.

Have YOU received a survey? Please let us know if you have, or haven’t! (email

Please note – the st james st library campaign does NOT endorse this survey, and it is totally up to you whether you return it.  If you do return it,

The council refused to amend the survey to make it a genuine consultation exercise.  We have seen the final draft and it does not allow people to express their views about the closure of st james st, the impact that had had on their library usage, nor people’s views on the importance of a nearby library, a good range of books to borrow, childrens books and reference books, and the importance of well trained staff (there is a question about ‘customer friendly staff’ but that sounds to me like another way of saying staff that don’t have any library training, which the library managers seem to think is fine).  By asking if you would be ‘more likely to use a library if you could return books to a GP surgery’ etc, please note what they are really asking is if this is a suitable replacement for a library, so be very careful if you answer this question!!  Also when they ask what time you use a library, be aware that the council is keen to try and replace a full time library with a weekend only library.

Our own survey of over 300 local residents, showed these were the most important things to local residents, who also wanted the existing building re-opened as a library by a majority of over 9 to 1.

The council’s survey seems designed to allow them to ‘spin’ people’s views rather than genuinely reflect them. Therefore we’d encourage anyone who HAS received a survey, and who wishes to fill it in, to ignore the council’s tick boxes if they do not seem to reflect what you want to say about libraries, and to write in other answers on the form where appropriate.

Please please do let us know if you have received a survey – seems like there is something a bit fishy going on here!  We are meeting the council again on 9th July so we will be sure to get to the bottom of this as well as to press the case for re-opening of St James St Library.


June 7, 2008, 3:40 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

To everyone who came today – great turnout, bout a 100 i reckon, great to see residents and the library workers standing side by side and standing up for libraries, including those who came in to talk to central library users (who were very supportive).  The only really strange comment was from the library manager who told me that it didn’t matter if sometimes the non-fiction and reference library had no staff working there at all….   anyway thanks again, check back here shortly for a fuller report.