Cooperative Council, Culture, Leisure

Free wi-fi to be rolled out to all Lambeth libraries this summer as programme of library modernisation begins

Visitors to all of Lambeth‘s libraries will soon be able access free wi-fi, Lambeth Council has announced.

The council is rolling out free wi-fi to all of its remaining libraries this summer, it was revealed at a meeting of the council’s cabinet on Monday night (9 July 2012). It’s the first major step towards a modern library service in Lambeth following public feedback and consultation earlier this year that stressed the need for libraries in Lambeth to be brought into the 21st century.

Wi-fi will allow library users to browse the web, use social networking sites, and connect to email, on their personal lap tops, smart phones and tablet devices, all for free.

It means that free wi-fi will be soon be available at Waterloo, Minet, Carnegie, Tate South Lambeth and West Norwood Libraries, joining Lambeth’s libraries which already have the service; Brixton, Streatham, Durning and the brand new Clapham Library.

Cllr Sally Prentice, Cabinet Member for Culture on Lambeth Council, said: “We know how important libraries are to people in Lambeth and this is fantastic news that will really bring our libraries into the 21st century, boosting their appeal as centres of the community where people can come to read, learn and study.

“While other councils have announced they are closing libraries, in Lambeth we are keeping them all open and investing in them to improve buildings and introduce new technology. This is a really exciting time for libraries as we are about to begin on a major programme of modernisation.” 

Lambeth Council consulted extensively with local residents about the type of library service they wanted to see as part of its ‘Cooperative Libraries’ consultation earlier this year. Many people, particularly younger residents, said that free wi-fi was a must for the service, so the council has made this a top priority.

“Free wi-fi was one of the top things people said they wanted to see introduced in libraries so we’ve pulled out the stops to make it happen as quickly as possible,” Cllr Prentice added. “This shows that local people really do have a voice when it comes to help shaping council services, and so I’d like to thank all those people who took the time to give us their views.”

Earlier this month, an innovative Lambeth scheme that sees local volunteers share their expertise about new devices such as IPads and Kindle e-readers with their less ‘tech-savvy’ neighbours, was named joint runner up in a prestigious national award ceremony.

The Digital Bazaar project, a monthly Saturday morning session at Tate South Lambeth Library, was commended in the Cilip 2012 Libraries Change Lives Award at the House of Commons. The scheme won a prize of £1,500 which will be used to roll out the Digital Bazaar idea to other libraries. It was praised by Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey, who said it “shows what can be achieved when people come together locally. It also highlights how libraries can and should become digital knowledge centres at the heart of every community, giving us the tools to realize our potential in the 21st century.”

The next session is on 21st July at 10am. To learn more visit http://www.tatesouthlambethfriends.org/next-digital-bazaar-saturday-21-july-2012/

The news came as the council’s cabinet formally endorsed plans to keep all the borough’s libraries open and make significant investment available to bring them into the 21st century. It also comes just a week after Clapham’s brand new library, the first in Lambeth in 40 years, opened its doors to the public for the very first time.

The council’s cabinet agreed on Monday night to a plan that would see:

All libraries remain open,

Significant investment made available,

Three libraries, Clapham, Brixton and Streatham, open 7-days a week,

Continued commitment to fund the Independent Upper Norwood Joint Library,

Consideration given to moving Waterloo Library, which is currently in a temporary building, to a more suitable permanent home, following consultation with the local community and library users,

An options appraisal commissioned that looks at the possibility of moving Streatham Library out of its current building and relocated to the modern Gracefield Gardens buildings. The current building is more than 120 years old, and the council wants to discuss with users the possibility of moving the library to the more modern and accessible space in Gracefield Gardens. Local residents will be consulted before any decisions are taken on this and a further report will be brought to cabinet in September,

The council will also work with local residents and community groups so they can get more involved in taking key decisions about how their library should be run and what services it should provide.

Free and guest wifi rollout is part of the council’s network modernisation project that the council is delivering with Virgin Media Business. The scheme will save more than £3m in network and telephone costs for the council over the ten-year contract and is also enabling and delivering innovation across a range of council services. This includes the free wi-fi in libraries and guest wi-fi in larger council buildings including the Town Hall.


The new Clapham Library, which opened last week







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