Save Doncaster Libraries took part in today’s national Save Libraries day of action, with events at seven libraries in the borough.
Opera singer Lesley Garrett, authors Helena Pielichaty and Kate Le Vann came to the Bawtry Read-In, and BBC News (national), ITV’s Calendar News (local) came to film the event. We reiterated the point that Doncaster council have provided such poor services for so long that they can’t reasonably cut the service any more than they already have and hope to provide a legally compliant service that meets the needs of its community. We also argued that the council has failed to produce an acceptable review and cuts package. In Bawtry, the library is very well used and the score-sheet (which even the Mayor accepts is totally arbitrary) reflects that; Bawtry Library scores seventh out of 26, but is still on the closures list. This is an unjustifiable decision (and the Mayor and his officers have failed to justify it).
The Mayor argues that cuts must be made and libraries are under-used. We’ve been arguing for months that Doncaster’s under-funded, poorly managed libraries do not meet the needs of communities so of course not as many people use them as they used to. The libraries expert who conducted a £15,000+ review of Doncaster libraries said the same. We’ve also been arguing for months that libraries are needed now more than ever, and that they are a vital service, just as important for society as children’s and old people’s services (and are children’s and old people’s services in many respects).
The council still fails to understand how important libraries are (as has been demonstrated by the sheer amount of support for them across the UK today), and as a result has not prioritised libraries in the way that 20 other councils around the country have done – and are not closing any libraries. These include Barking and Dagenham, Devon, Hull, Lincolnshire, Newcastle, Poole, Portsmouth, Swindon and Wirral. All local authorities are facing “challenges” and “hard decisions” – but it’s not beyond Doncaster council to do the right thing and save its library service from what can only be described as catastrophic cuts. Our communities cannot run a sustainable and effective library service, the libraries are in no fit state to be run by volunteers, and nor do they have to – if Doncaster council takes responsibility for its statutory obligations.