A Friend of Doncaster Libraries, Charles Thomson, wrote to Mayor Peter Davies voicing his concerns about the threats to the library service. Below is the Mayor’s response:
Dear Mr Thomson
Thank you for your further email.
I cannot decide whether you are joking about the removal of the start and finishing points on Doncaster Racecourse. Clearly this is impossible. I repeat that it is vitally important for the success of Doncaster Racecourse that a large number of trees are removed.
I refer now to your concerns regarding the proposed library closures. An external review of Doncaster’s Library Services, a resulting improvement plan, and a proposed consultation with all stakeholders, was considered by the Council’s Executive Board on 4th August 2010. The outcome was that a consultation would go ahead with a view to the results being considered in November 2010, with recommendations on the way forward.
This means that any decisions around library closures will be informed by the consultation and review, with usage levels, community need and the condition of the accommodation taken into account. Library staff, elected members, trade unions, and the general public, have now received a copy of the review, and consultation has started. The next step will be to start a more specific consultation exercise with the residents of Doncaster, and that is due to start this week.
I trust the above is helpful.
Mayor Davies is incorrect. As far as Save Doncaster Libraries are aware, the only access that the public have to the review of Doncaster Library and Information Services and the recommendations made by a libraries expert are through the Save Doncaster Libraries blog. It is important to stress that this report was only made available following a Freedom of Information request and has not been made widely available to the public through the council website or public library service. The council are not being transparent, nor are they appropriately involving Doncaster citizens in their decision making processes.
The “specific consultation exercise” to which Mayor Davies alludes may well be this questionnaire (we are not aware of any other consultation), which is hidden in the depths of the council website (which is not heavily used and very inaccessible). Questionnaires were availble for a short time in library branches, but these have now run out. This means that people without access to the internet or who are unable to use computers, who value the library service, are unable to complete the questionnaires.
We are very concerned that this consultation exercise is tokenistic, based on the “decide-announce-defend” model, and that the council has already made its decision to close library branches, reduce opening hours, continue to deprofessionalise the service and reduce its quality even further.