27 March 2022

Forest Hill Library update

By John Firmin

Forest Hill Community library is emerging from coronavirus restrictions in good shape. Now open seven days a week, footfall each month is around 6,500 and while this is below the level before the pandemic, the recovery is faster than at other Lewisham libraries. Group meetings have resumed with the popular Rhyme time for the under 5’s at 10am on Tuesdays and children’s origami on one Saturday each month.

Throughout the pandemic, the library continued to receive a steady stream of new books from Lewisham libraries especially in the children’s section, which continues to account for the majority of book borrowing. More children completed the summer reading challenge at Forest Hill than at any other library in the borough. This year, children were asked to review the books they read and post their reviews in the library. Forest Hill accounted for almost half the reviews posted in all Lewisham libraries. Well done to our younger readers! For older children and students, the library provides a safe space to study after school.

Good use continues to be made of the computers available to the public in the adult section. This service is vital to people without access to the internet at home when most job vacancies require on-line searches. If this applies to you, the volunteers at the library are ready to help you use the computers there.

Most recently, the community library was successful in two NCIL bids: £2,900, which will be used to redecorate and refurbish the busy children’s library; and £2,075 for developing room at the rear of the library.  This will be divided in two to provide a dedicated space for community use and hire and a smaller space for volunteers.  Work on both projects will be completed this year.  Additionally, Library Garden is receiving £9,451, which will enable it to complete landscaping work including raised beds and a seating area”.

The Library Garden Group is continuing to carve out a productive vegetable and dye garden from the space behind Forest Hill Library. The dye garden proved fruitful last Summer and enabled the project stewards to run a series of natural fabric dyeing and sewing workshops.

Through seed sowing and planting out dye plant plugs, the garden was full of bright, profusely flowering, annuals and perennials. There were over 50 sunflowers, ranging from the simple yellow to a Hopi black, and our tallest, at 3.05m won London Harvest Festival's Tallest Sunflower competition. The first raised vegetable bed was completed last Autumn, and planted up with onions, garlic and winter cabbages at a Moonlight Gardening event full of lantern making and folk music.

Looking to the future, Library Garden is taking steps to finish the main infrastructure of the garden, seeking to complete all raised beds and provide a comfortable seating area for volunteers and visitors. After applying to the Forest Hill NCIL ward at the end of last year, the garden has been recommended for enough money to carry out this hard landscaping work. It will be delivered over the course of the next year in one 'Hands-On' session per week, focusing on the more physical aspects of completing the garden build.

A short maintenance gardening course for Lewisham residents is also on the horizon in order to restore the Louise House wildlife garden to a flourishing state (funding dependent). As always, the more volunteers the merrier, so contact hello@librarygarden.org.uk for more information about how to get involved.

From March the library has resumed opening on all evenings Monday-Thursday but does need more volunteers to cover these times. If you can do so, or if you are interested in volunteering at other times you are most welcome. Library volunteers include young adults on work experience and on schemes like that of the Duke of Edinburgh.
Future challenges for Forest Hill Community Library include doing more to bridge the digital divide and making the library eco-friendlier with more efficient heating and lighting. Both, however, depend on continued success in grant applications.

The library is self-funding. You can help by becoming a friend (£29 per annum) or a patron (a single payment of £300). And corporate friendship is also available for £99 or a single payment of £500. The library is a registered charity and when made by UK taxpayers donations qualify for gift aid.

If you would like to volunteer at the library or find out more about being a friend or a patron please contact the manager, Stephen Bruce at the library, or on 020 8244 0634 or by e mail to stephen@fhlibrary.co.uk.

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