Croydon Council stands accused of gambling with children’s futures as six libraries make desperate attempts to stave off closure.

Hundreds of residents turned out to make an impassioned show of support for their under-fire branches on Saturday, with stars such as Ralph Ineson from Harry Potter lending their weight to the cause.

Campaigning group Friends of Croydon Libraries(FoCL), which has raised more than £6,000 for the library service in the past five years, has called for Broad Green library to be saved as a priority because of the effect it would have on a deprived community.

It also believes the relatively isolated South Norwood should keep its library, with further investigation needed before deciding to close Norbury or Shirley.

But the group says the impact of closing Sanderstead and Bradmore Green libraries could be eased through proposed investment in the Home Library Service and other services.

FoCL chairman John Ingman condemned the proposed closures as being driven by cash rather than strategy.

He said: “The people that are using libraries now are youngsters and the elderly.

“We believe passionately that libraries change lives.

“We accept that cuts have to be made - but not at the expense of the worst-off.”

Mr Ingman pointed out visits at Sanderstead, Shirley and Bradmore Green had fallen significantly in the past few years, although the latter saw a 1.7 per cent increase in usage between 2008/09 and 2009/10.

He said: “That raises questions about whether they are providing a service that meets the needs of communities.

“Volunteers might usefully help with the Home Library Service and possibly in providing small limited services.

“But we do not think that there is likely to be any scope in the foreseeable future for voluntary groups to run or own Libraries in Croydon.”

Croydon’s opposition Labour party has called for no cuts to be made to libraries, with fears rife among the group that Broad Green, Norbury, South Norwood and Bradmore Green libraries are frontrunners to be mothballed.

Croydon Labour Leader Tony Newman said: “Libraries these days are about so much more than books - they have become centres of the community.

“By threatening to close them the Tories are playing roulette with young people and elderly people’s lives.”

Councillor Sara Bashford, cabinet member for culture, has vowed to represent residents’ views when she takes the proposals before Croydon Council’s cabinet.

More details about the consultation, which ends on February 20, can be found at

LIBRARY USAGE between 08/09 and 09/10

Norbury - DOWN 2.8 per cent to 104,599 visits
Shirley - DOWN 14 per cent to 86,478 visits
South Norwood - DOWN 0.5 per cent to 75,619 visits
Bradmore Green - UP 1.7 per cent to 75,306 visits
Broad Green - DOWN 4 per cent to 68,768 visits
Sanderstead - UP 3.5 per cent to 63,176 visits