It was a strange week last week. The two library campaigns I’ve followed since before Voices for The Library was set up went to Scrutiny Committee in their respective areas – Gloucestershire and Doncaster. These committees were used to question whether the decision that had previously been agreed to cut their library service budgets were justified.
Doncaster libraries were given a reprieve for a year, where a proper consultation, involving ‘experts’ would be carried out to determine what would happen to the libraries. From the notes I saw there was tremendous support from local councillors and petitions were signed by at least 15,000 people. This is great news and the chance of a proper consultation could get Doncaster libraries back on track to providing a service local users need. Lauren Smith and the Save Doncaster Libraries campaign members should be very proud of the role they played in achieving this and hopefully they will be able to influence the outcome of the consultation.
Gloucestershire libraries however didn’t have a happy ending, even though intervention by central Government agencies and ministers was asked for by campaigners. A large number of libraries will be closed or reduced to token hours that can not really claim to be a comprehensive library service and mobile services will be removed. This is despite the hard work by Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries campaign group, the 15,000+ signatures that were collected for their save libraries petition, the national media attention the campaign has received, and the local people who turned out to show their support on 5th February and meetings and other protests. I wonder how ignoring this massive support for libraries is democracy? It isn’t really, is it.
I’ll admit, I’m particularly upset about Gloucestershire – I have seen the campaign grow since the first day Johanna Anderson (Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries) highlighted the plans that had been announced on the This Is Gloucestershire site (August 2010, I think) and I have seen the many of the ups and downs. In fact, seeing what was going on in Gloucestershire played an important part in my joining Voices For The Library.
I know this is no consolation for Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries campaigners and all involved, but I have great admiration for all they have tried to do. They deserved so much better than this result.