They were never ever going to listen

The council has released its amended proposals for the library service. They do not make for happy reading. This response is an edited version of a post by SDL member Lynne which was originally posted on her own blog.

On the 12th October the DMBC cabinet are meeting to discuss the results of the consultation and consider ‘alternative ways’ of delivering the 14 library services that were originally propsed for closure one year ago.

The earlier council decision was to fund 12 of 26 libraries and to ‘improve and develop’ these ‘to ensure they are sustainable, high quality, fully maintained libraries that are significant community facilities.  65,000 questionnaires were sent out to people living near the 14 libraries (not those who work or are educated in those areas as the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act includes).  Following feedback on the 7,000 returned, a thorough impact assessment and discussions with volunteers, community groups and library action groups the proposals drawn up are:-

  • Expected community-led provision at Bawtry, Intake and Warmsworth.
  • Expected community-led provision in a different venue at Balby, Bessacarr, Edenthorpe, Wheatley and Sprotborough.
  • Expected self-service supplemented by community volunteers co-located with another council service in Moorends, Rossington, Stainforth and Scawthorpe.
  • Enhanced Mobile/Outreach at Carcroft and Denaby (i.e. they will be closed).

Currently libraries cost £5.26 million to run not including money needed to maintain and invest in the buildings.  Keeping all 26 in current form is not seen as an option by the council.

My initial reactions:

  • What impact assessment?
  • Who are these groups with whom they consulted?
  • What other formats were the questionnaires provided in?
  • How did this adhere to the 1964 Act?
  • What costings are expected to be met by the community groups?  What support and training and provisions are the Council going to provide?
  • What if no community-led groups are found?
  • What about the current staff of the 14 – and indeed the whole service?
  • What is the time-frame expected to be met?  Have they considered the impact on literacy levels and education?
  • What about the employment market, e.g. Barnsley Council only accept online job applications so if you cannot access a local library to do so, how are you going to compete in the job market fairly – and in competition with those who used to work in those libraries?!

The documents are available here.

Here is a link to Mayor Peter Davies defending decimation of services on Radio Sheffield Drive Time – 59 minutes and 23 seconds in. During the interview he states that the extent of council involvement in the 12 community-run libraries will be to put in some books, refresh them regularly and give as much support as they can without ploughing money into it. If people want a library, then putting in one or two hours per week into volunteering “isn’t too much to expect”. This demonstrates his ignorance about the ability of library users to run library services and his lack of understanding about what will be required of them.

There is more of his interview at 1:05:32. In summary – his usual line blaming the cuts on the government. He’d prefer to see the 14 libraries not currently under threat of closure open via other means such as volunteers or schools. He says that opponents seem to think there’s a magic tree to get money from, and that they invented his saying he will close a library. He’s asking people to talk to him about opening the libraries, and that’s it, the plan. Schools can take them over…Great, my kids’ school has just closed theirs! He says he “thinks” that Doncaster has more libraries per head of population than any other borough – “a mighty number” – and that the public have had little interest in  keeping them open – BECAUSE WE CAN’T. Is he satisfied they can be run by volunteers? Yes in Warmsworth – they have an army of volunteers it seems. Is suspicious in one or two cases as to whether people actually want a library. The point was made that librarians are professionals – he laughed! Says all sorts of trades and jobs need training but what’s needed for stamping a book and letting them out and in – “Things are made mysterious”. Admits he doesn’t know and that libraries are in the state they’re in means not had good librarians in over the recent years! NO, IT IS BECAUSE YOU (AND OTHER EQUALLY GUILTY FROM ALL PARTIES) CUT THE FUNDING AND STAFFING IN DMBC OVER THE LAST 5-8 YEARS.

The responses – First up is CILIP Vice President Phil Bradley – a very polite response, far more than Mayor Davies deserved, says doubts many agree with Mayor Davies, it is a shame when councils think they can get rid of libraries, they’re part of community and without a library it is not really a community. It is disrespectful to the community and also to CILIP members to close libraries or make them community-run. He talked about common misconceptions of library staffing – assistants are wonderful, but it is like comparing a receptionist to a Doctor. He explained the time it takes to train as a librarian and said that Mayor Davies’ interpretation was a typical ignorant idea. He gave examples of issues that would need to be overcome: What about closures if volunteers don’t step forward? It costs money to train and support volunteers – they are not free. Volunteers will be working with children therefore need CRB checks. Volunteers can be helpful to support libraries but not running it themselves.

Another response came from Dave of Mexborough via text who agreed that the Mayor’s Librarian comments were an insult and he should be taken to a library, stamped, but not returned!

So – with the amount of support to Save Doncaster’s Libraries and the total lack of flexibility shown over the last year to change their stance in any way, despite MANY alternatives being given, how are we to think that the wholesale decimation of our libraries is anything but a political stance to dumb down our population even further.

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4 Responses to They were never ever going to listen

  1. NeilM says:

    The so-called “Public Consultation” by local and national government is nothing more than a cynical charade from politicians who do not even represent the way the public votes. Why on earth do we put up with them?

  2. tig says:

    ‘the wholesale decimation of our libraries is anything but a political stance to dumb down our population even further.’

    and this is the crux of the matter

  3. NeilM says:

    Don’t you mean tig, “nothing but a political stance to dumb down our population even further”? If so I absolutely agree.

  4. Pingback: Painful to read | The Daily Librarian

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