Libraries become community beacons

Published: Friday, March 18, 2022

Wandsworth will launch its new ‘beacon libraries’ this year, including the new £3.5 Wandsworth Town library, the new Northcote Library and an upgraded Putney Library.

Share this

The new Wandsworth Town Library

If the pilot programme is successful, the scheme could be rolled out to other librairies in the borough.

A beacon library is more closely tailored to the changing needs of the community it serves, including flexible spaces to meet, work and learn. Wandsworth Town is currently being fitted out and will include a new conference and meeting facility, exhibition space and a new children’s library. It is expected to be completed by the autumn.

The new Northcote Library, which is due to be open in the first months of next year, will provide for a bigger children’s section, dedicated meeting rooms, collaborative workspace and adjoining community hall.

Meanwhile Putney’s £1m refit will coincide with other improvement works in the area as part of the ongoing Putney Town Centre improvement project. It will include a dedicated space for local business start-ups and sole traders as well as a new children’s library, reception and café area.

New figures show that the borough’s library service, delivered on behalf of Wandsworth Council by its contractor, charitable social enterprise GLL, are popular and well-used by local people.

Wandsworth was in the top 20 local authorities nationwide, and the highest in London, for numbers of items issued in 2020/21 - over five hundred thousand. The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy figures reported that Wandsworth libraries were the fourth highest in London for library visits.

Despite impact on physical library visits by the pandemic, the online library surged in 2020 and 2021, as customers logged in from home in high numbers to use the libraries e-Services and online events. Online users can access ebooks, audio books, music and a wide range of research tools, including free access to Ancestry and Press Reader. Find out more.

Pre-pandemic figures from 2019/20 saw 1,383,740 physical books issued, including 719,416 children’s books – the most books issued in London for the third year running.

Wandsworth Cabinet member for community services Cllr Steffi Sutters (pictured right) said: “We are proud of our library service – at a time when many local authorities are closing libraries, we are investing in ours with a brand-new library set to open in Wandsworth Town this year, and a significant upgrade to Putney library.

“But the pandemic gave us an opportunity to innovate our libraries to appeal to a wider range of people and provide more facilities. We want to make libraries part of our work providing education for children, skills training for adults and support for local entrepreneurs.

“Our new beacon libraries will help us ensure we have a library service fit for the 21st century which can be a real hub for our local communities.”