What is the Upper Norwood Joint Library?
Answer: The country's only independent, jointly funded public library.

The Upper Norwood Joint Library (UNJL) serves a well-defined and diverse local community; a catchment area that encompasses elements of no fewer than 5 local authorities. It is a unique 'bespoke' service, managed by its own Joint Committee, which is comprised of four councillors from each of the two boroughs (Croydon and Lambeth) that financially support the library, together with two community representatives. However, uncertainties of funding and governance have persistently plagued the library over many years.

The UNJL is effectively a library authority in its own right, setting and implementing its own locally orientated policies, priorities and procedures as an autonomous and cost effective body. It has operated on this basis since 1898, providing a full range of library services (other than a mobile library) for the Crystal Palace district, on an exclusively self-sufficient, de-centralised and 'stand-alone' basis.

A unique service

With Crystal Palace being some distance from both the larger central libraries of Croydon, Bromley and Lambeth, and their local branch or district operations, the UNJL provides a substantial library service that is specific to this sizeable community.

But it is not just a library. The highly valued UNJL provides important outreach work to local schools, playgroups and other organisations. Reading development initiatives, regular activities for parents and children and 'special event' programmes attract large numbers of visitors; helping to support business in the area. Local groups are able to use library facilities such as the meeting and advice rooms. Additionally, the UNJL is a repository for local and community history, relating to this world-famous part of South London.

Ardent Library users protest over previous funding shortfalls
Ardent Library users protest over previous funding shortfalls

A 110-year-old success story

The Library has been successfully serving the cross-borough community of Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood for 110 years. This anniversary was recently celebrated with a 2-day event with the high level of public attendance demonstrating the popularity of this well-respected and well-used facility.

Final curtain?

Despite previous assurances from Croydon's Leader, Cllr Mike Fisher, guaranteeing the long-term future of the Library, recent radical reforms put forward by him could bring down the curtain on this invaluable local resource. Should he be successful in his ambitions then this fine library service will be lost forever to the people of Crystal Palace and Norwood.

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