Letter from the Mayor

I received a letter today from Mayor Peter Davies, via MP Caroline Flint who wrote to him on behalf of Save Doncaster Libraries.

It reads:

6th August 2010

Dear Ms. Flint

Library Closures in Doncaster

Thank you for your letter dated 8th July 2010 regarding your constituent Lauren Smith…, in relation to Library Closures in Doncaster.

Due to the active national agenda around libraries, and the proposal to potentially close Bessacarr, Warmsworth and Wheatley Libraries, it was decided that we would commission an external expert in this field to complete a review of the service, and develop a resulting improvement plan. This work has now been completed and will be considered this week, as well as the intended actions moving forward.

Please be assured that Doncaster is working closely with the Museums, Libraries and Archive Service (MLA) to ensure the right process is followed in the improvement of the service, which has already started, and with regard to any rationalisation of the service. I am sure you will be aware that library closures cannot occur in isolation, and that the usage levels, community needs, condition of the accommodation and the strategy of the service moving forward must be taken into account.

Once the way forward has been agreed, we will make all stakeholders aware of the next steps.

I trust the above information is helpful.

Yours sincerely

Peter Davies
Mayor of Doncaster

If what the Mayor says is to be believed, the consideration of the report occurred over two weeks ago, after a long period of sitting on the report which was submitted to the council in May. It is thought that library staff will hear about the council’s decisions on Wednesday. The council have not done anything to consult the public about the “improvement”, “rationalisation” or “next steps”, yet have already quietly reduced Saturday opening hours of all branch libraries – this contradicts assurances that the “right steps” will be taken.

The “way forward” cannot and should not be agreed without the involvement of the public, including library users, non-users and community groups.

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One Response to Letter from the Mayor

  1. Chris says:

    I am not exactly impressed with the Mayor’s response. It just regurgitates sentiments that we have heard so many times over the past few years, such as in Mayor Winter’s time. It says absolutely nothing positive, only that DMBC is ‘working with’, ‘considering’, ‘taking into account’…

    “usage levels, community needs, condition of the accommodation and the strategy of the service moving forward must be taken into account.” Hmmm. I very much think that the only item on this list to be ‘taken into account’ is usage levels. Community needs have been ignored, e.g. across the road from Warmsworth library is a school containing 462 pupils – many of them used to come to the library with parents after school (it was a procession!). If usage has fallen off it is because the once-close relationship bet lib & school has been allowed to decline, i.e. local staff not allowed or encouraged to be involved with the school. Most of these pupils will NOT find it easy to start using Edlington or Balby libraries, due to the inescapable fact that transport will be required. Contrary to popular opinion, not everyone has easy access to a car, and bus services are frequently not a viable option.

    The same goes for Bessacarr (the lib is in the grounds of 400-pupil Willow Primary) & Wheatley (2 schools-800 pupils). As it does for every library in the borough.

    The service will only move forward when time, interest & enthusiasm is put into re-forging relationships with local communities, esp schools. Any library service worth its salt has to be pro-active, getting out into schools, encouraging classes into the library, getting to know the children (consistency of staffing is absolutely essential here, something that is often sadly lacking in Doncaster).

    Because of the lack of professional expertise of the powers-that-be, Doncaster Lib Service has regressed into that age-old attitude of “We are here. Everyone should know we are here. Why should we waste time telling people we are here…” Children have butterfly minds! Libraries need to KEEP telling them just why they should be coming to the library!

    It is a dead cert that Annie Mauger’s report & ‘resulting improvement plan’ will cost money. The danger is that the council will cherry-pick a few (cheap) unconnected elements & then boast about their far-sightedness in developing a “Library Service fit for the 21st century” – how I hate that trite, much trotted-out corporate phrase!!! It says absolutely nothing, yet bamboozles many…

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