Such is the lack of foresight still being shown by Doncaster Council regarding it’s library service that we have the honour of being named and shamed in Private Eye.
Whilst the issue in question is not yet available online, we are delighted to be able to reproduce the relevant section thanks to Alan Gibbons uncompromising and leading Campaign for the Book articles. Together with other libraries being systematically destroyed, Doncaster is included in an article entitled ‘On Borrowed Time? A Library News Special’ which appears in Issue No. 1305 dated 13-26 Jan 2012.
In Doncaster, 14 of the borough’s 26 libraries either shut down or were handed over to volunteer groups in November. But that’s all right because last week the authority announced it has now “improved and modernised” its service with the launch of a new “digital library” with ebooks to download at home.
So, good news at least for library users who can afford fast internet and e-reading devices? Er, the digital library contains a grand total of 456 titles and, thanks to Amazon’s restrictive rights management, doesn’t currently work with Kindles.
Whilst we applaud Doncaster Libraries in moving forward and implementing e-book lending (albeit somewhat later than most, and with little research and no promotion), the intent to engage and enable Doncaster residents to access information technologies and reading material of all formats is a great step forward, we can’t help thinking this is yet another example of knee-jerk, ill-thought out and badly executed actions. Yes Libraries can work ‘without walls’, but please let the people now in post manage projects in a timely fashion and do not set them up to fail. This is a project that will work and will grow, but you need to know your demographic and let them know how they can use the facility. At present only those with Internet access at home or the ability to reach a library will be able to manage. The more internet savvy of Doncaster’s Library users are already surfing the social networks with negative comments which will damage the first innovation the Libraries have seen in months, nay years (Discussion within Save Doncaster Libraries Facebook group). This exactly the demographic which the Library service needs on side, to expand and promote the service through satisfied customer promotion.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking our being quiet means we’ve given up and gone away. We have not. We will always push for proactive, current and expanding library services and fight unnecessary, destructive and unfair cuts.