The Save Doncaster Libraries campaign is privileged to have been part of a successful demonstration in Doncaster town centre at noon today. The demonstration was jointly called by Doncaster’s Unison Branch and Coalition of Resistance, with speakers from organisations such as UCU, National Pensioners Convention, the Sheffield University Occupation and Unison. Save Doncaster Libraries led the speeches as Lynne Coppendale detailed the horrors the council visiting on the citizens of Doncaster. Here is the speech Lynne gave:
Unfortunately the situation for DMBC Libraries is worse than ever. From the dire standpoint of losing 3 branch libraries that were vital and central to their communities we have now heard proposals to close 13, and that of those left open only 1 employed member of staff will be placed in each, supplemented by volunteers. An independently commissioned report undertaken earlier this year consultant Annie Mauger, and published at the beginning of September 2010, stated categorically that ‘At the current time, the library services are not fit to become part of a trust model’ , in short, they are not at a stage when any other form of model will be able to cope. Yes, untrained, unqualified, inexperienced volunteers. All part of Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ whereby he expects the poor, retired or unemployed to volunteer in jobs they may even have previously been paid to do! Volunteering is admirable, but it is a supplement to paid public services, not instead of.
13 libraries – those, we can only guess, not re-branded ‘customer service’ centres or jointly managed and therefore impossible to dissolve. With at least 5 years of under-funding and poor, at best, management, libraries have no-one left in-house of a level able to fight for them. The staffs that remain are often dedicated and highly trained, but scared, demoralised and defeated. They cannot keep on fighting. They need us to tell them we appreciate them, we need them and we want them to stay and improve.
This seems all part of the ‘Mondeo’ service Doncaster Council staffs have long boasted about being good enough for our library service. No ‘Rolls Royce’ service for us. What was once a 3-star service is now an ‘it’ll do’. Local authorities have a statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient public library service, the Museums and Public Libraries Act 1964 requires this. We have a nationally acclaimed book award, much copied and eulogised, will we lose this, which has encouraged reading in thousands of our children and young people?
I’ve been told of one pensioner who has been told by his pension company he must have an email address to claim his pension, but he has no computer, if his local library closes where will he go for assistance with this new information technology? Where will he access regular online assistance, he cannot afford a computer, he cannot travel far.
Doncaster Residents deserve BETTER!
What are we doing? Receiving disappointing and non-committal responses from those purporting to represent us in parliament, they too seem to be waiting for the outcome of the Council’s report, due 11th January. We’re not leaving them alone. We are also meeting with Councillor Ransome, whose portfolio is Libraries, on Friday. We take issue with their assertion that Doncaster residents have been fully consulted – were you asked? Did you know a consultation was happening? Were you told how to join in? 3000 residents responded, there are 286,000, just about 1%.
Petitions have reached their thousands for signatures and we have stated our support for the changes – for the better – as recommended in the previously mentioned report. We have an ongoing blog, savedoncasterlibraries.wordpress.com detailing our position, the arguments and the opportunities and we recognise our position as one of many vital services represented here today, that are being destroyed because of the greed of bankers and politicians. We say to them, alternatives have been given – use them, stop treading on the average person and take responsibility. This is not a ‘Big Society’, this is a travesty – the result, as Author Helena Pielichaty reminded me yesterday “if these people think education is expensive, try ignorance.” As TS Eliot said “The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man” – man as in everyone. Doncaster, indeed the nation, seems to want to stamp out all hope for our futures.