Our criticism of the hypocrisy and contradictory nature of Doncaster Council’s promotion of the national Summer Reading Challenge featured on this morning’s BBC Look North programme and BBC Radio Sheffield’s breakfast show. You can listen to the report by BBC Radio Sheffield and interview with campaigners Lauren and Lynne here. When this link expires there is a link to the report here. There is a BBC article about it here.
Libraries have such an important role to play in encouraging children from a very early age to get into reading for pleasure, develop their imaginations and aspirations, and build their literacy skills – which includes the ability to read well, but also includes skills such as writing, interpreting and interacting.
The council has responded with a statement saying that it’s ‘business as usual’ until they’ve finished their consultation and worked out whether any communities can run the libraries that the council is threatening to close. At that point, though, the council is happy to cut the libraries by more than half. They believe they’re justified in doing so because they’ve been told they have to make cuts. However, the man who drafted the Public Libraries and Museums Act says that this is not lawful: “The Act does not contain any provision for reduction of the duties because of a need for “cuts”” (from the Voices for the Library blog).
The council’s excuse is that libraries are no longer needed in the areas that they’re threatening to close libraries. Within the context of children’s services, education, literacy and the Summer Reading Challenge, this cannot possibly be the case, and the council knows this because it has promoted the value of the Summer Reading Challenge and through this, the importance of reading. The threatened branches are located in villages with children who are resident and/or go to school there. They have a legal right to access a public library. Their lives are or could be enriched and their opportunities increased through the use of a public library. Their classmates, who may live a couple of miles away, might still have access to a library because theirs will stay open. How can the council justify enabling some children to access a library service but not others? Especially when thousands of those children are from the most deprived parts of Doncaster? How can this be a ‘comprehensive’ service within the regulations of the Act? Shame on DMBC.