Libraries campaign – keeping the pressure up

The community campaign to fight proposed cutbacks to Darlington’s libraries service is a two-fold strategy. One part is to continue protesting at the plans, which can be done in many ways, everything from lobbying your councillors to writing letters to the media and signing the Northern Echo coupon detailed below. Every act of protest has its value in keeping the pressure up on our councillors
The other part of the strategy is exploring ways in which the council can work with the community on providing a viable future for the libraries without wholesale closures and cutbacks. A group of volunteers from all walks of life are drawing up plans for Crown Street, a separate team is exploring plans for Cockerton, and Shaun Campbell is working up ideas for a national football heritage museum/library, possibly in the Dolphin Centre, to go in the space where the council proposes to shift Crown Street library. Shaun’s idea would help secure the future of the Dolphin Centre thereby allowing Crown Street Library to stay where it is. All groups are in constant dialogue. This blog will update you on the process.

Posted May 25
The community steering group supported by Darlington for Culture and established to devise a way to secure the future of the Darlington library service without the need for major cutbacks, has submitted its plans to Darlington Borough Council. You can find out more at http://www.darlingtonforculture.org/14723/
Posted May 24
The final touches are being completed for the libraries steering group’s proposals for the future of the borough’s library service with meetings taking place today with senior councillors after which the report will be completed, submitted to Darlington Borough Council and posted on the Darlington for Culture website.

Posted May 19
People power is vital in the fight to save Darlington’s under-threat library services, a meeting of a newly formed Friends group was told on Wednesday (May 18).
About 35 people turned up at Crown Street Library in Darlington for the inaugural meeting of the Friends of Darlington Libraries.
Chaired by former Liberal Democrat councillor and keen preserver of the town’s heritage Alan Macnab, the meeting was also addressed by Darlington Liberal Democrat councillor Anne-Marie Curry and featured questions from residents concerned at the authority’s proposal to move the Crown Street Library to the Dolphin Centre, close the Cockerton branch and end the mobile library service.
The Friends committee will now meet to plan its next steps.
You can see a full report of the event at http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/14501697.People_power_key_to_helping_preserve_Darlington_s_library_services__new_group_tells_concerned_residents/

Posted May 9
Campaigners working on plans to secure a viable future for the borough’s threatened library service met senior Darlington council offices on a fact-finding mission today (Monday May 9). The team included Darlington for Culture representatives, leaders of the working group of volunteers drawing up plans for Crown Street and football campaigner Shaun Campbell. Although the groups have not finalised their plans yet, they outlined to the officers:
a way to retain the majority of the current library space at Crown Street, whilst creating a community hub, with cafe, meeting spaces and areas for hire
plans to retain Cockerton Library as a library/information centre complete with computer suite while increasing the range of activities it holds, with ideas ranging from more hire for arts and community events and stronger links with local schools
and
Shaun’s ideas for a national sports heritage museum/library, possibly to go in the space in the Dolphin Centre where the council proposes to move Crown Street library. Shaun’s idea would help secure the future of the Dolphin Centre thereby allowing Crown Street Library to stay where it is.
The meeting was held in a positive atmosphere but much work remains to be done before anything is resolved and the volunteers will now spend the next couple of weeks having further meetings with council officers and finalising the financial element of the proposals before submitting them to the council by the end of the consultation period on May 31.

Posted April 30
After a group of interested groups and individuals met on Saturday April 23 to debate ways of saving Crown Street Library, a steering group has been formed to firm up ideas voiced in the seven hour meeting, including how additional income can be made from the library, additional uses for the building, potential savings and how the community and council can work together to preserve a library in Crown Street. A team is also looking at plans to save Cockerton Library as a community hub/library and again discussions are under way with a number of people in the community.
Members of the two library working parties, plus football campaigner Shaun Campbell who is developing his ideas for a football heritage centre in the Dolphin Centre, in the space proposed for Crown St Library if it moves, thereby making the council proposal to close Crown Street much less viable, are due to meet council officials on May 9 in a fact-finding meeting. After that meeting, the working parties will be able to finalise their ideas and submit the ideas formally by the end of May and go public with the details.

Posted April 29
A Government response to The Northern Echo’s petition asking Parliament to reconsider a funding formula putting Darlington’s heritage at risk is expected.
More than 10,000 signatures have been added to the online petition after it was created only 55 days ago in the wake of Darlington Borough Council plans to implement savage spending cuts across the town.
The number of signatories needed to force the Government to acknowledge the petition was met shortly before 3pm on April 28. You can still sign it and we urge you do so – more at http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/local/darlington/14459295.Government_response_expected_as_Echo_petition_to__save_Darlington__reaches_10_000_signatures/

Talks are held
Darlington for Culture (DfC) Chair John Dean and Secretary Matt Roche today (Thursday April 21) met senior figures from Darlington Borough Council and emphasised the need for the authority to rethink its plans to drastically scale back the library service.
The DfC team reiterated to Councillor Nick Wallis, Cabinet member with responsibility for arts and culture, Chief Executive Ada Burns and Director of Neighbourhood Services and Resources Paul Wildsmith the community’s strong belief that the closure plans need to be re-thought in view of strong public opposition.
They also stressed the importance of the council working with the many people now developing innovative ideas to feed into a comprehensive community-led proposal to make the library service more viable without recourse to closures.
The DfC team stressed that ideas coming forward should be given genuine and open–minded consideration by the council and that the community should be allowed extra time to develop them in collaboration with the council.
The council team confirmed a willingness to work with the community on its ideas, stressing that they had be ‘realistic’, and repeated a previous statement that a little extra time might be available but that it could only be measured in months.
DfC Chair John Dean said afterwards: “Clearly many challenges lie ahead but there seems to be a genuine commitment from the council to give campaigners a fair hearing, which we welcome. Many people are now working together to develop ideas for the library service and we are excited by the commitment, invention and ability of those who are working on ideas. Their contribution is truly inspiring.”
A follow up meeting will be held with Paul Wildsmith and other senior officers on May 9 to work through some of the details of the schemes being prepared by the community, with attendees to include DfC representatives, representatives of the Crown Street Library working party and Shaun Campbell.

Posted April 19
Volunteers needed to support libraries protest
Volunteers will be out in force to support The Northern Echo’s Save Crown Street Library campaign.
On Wednesday, April 27 a team of volunteers will station themselves outside the library, on High Row and outside the Dolphin Centre. They will encourage passersby to oppose proposed changes to Darlington’s library services by signing a coupon issued by The Northern Echo.
A programme of budget cuts could see Cockerton Library and the mobile library close, while Crown Street would be closed and have its resources moved to the Dolphin Centre.
So far, almost 2,000 coupons from across the world have been handed in or posted in response to The Northern Echo’s campaign to save the library. They have been signed by school children, residents and internationally-acclaimed authors Anne Fine and Philippa Gregory.
Supporter Yvonne Richardson is rallying volunteers for Wednesday and has urged others to help them collect signatures. The volunteer team will be present in the town from 10am until 4pm. Anyone who can help is invited to contact Yvonne Richardson via the Darlington Library – Keep it at Crown Street Facebook group, or turn up on the day.
You find a copy of the coupon at http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/local/darlington/14435349.Volunteer_force_needed_to_help_The_Northern_Echo_s_campaign_to_Save_Crown_Street_Library/

Planning under way
Posted April 17
A planning workshop will be held on Saturday April 23 involving a number of the people who recently contacted DfC expressing an interest in helping to work on ideas for the future of Crown Street Library. If you wish to submit any further ideas for consideration at the workshop please could you let us have them on darlo4culture@gmail.com by Wednesday (April 20).

Posted April 14

Following the Another Way meeting on April 7 to look at alternatives to dramatically cutting back Darlington’s Libraries service, council chief executive Ada Burns wrote to meeting organisers Darlington for Culture confirming that it is prepared to work with, and assist, groups interested in coming up with alternative ways of preserving the service and that a little extra time beyond the end of May may be available to come up with credible solutions if required.
DfC is working with a number of interested parties and is talking to groups and individuals, all of whom are keen to firm up their ideas. Many meetings are taking place to develop the ideas that have come forward.
If you wish to be involved in the efforts to take the initiative to the next stage and have not already been in touch with us, we can be contacted on darlo4culture@gmail.com

Posted April 8

Darlington for Culture (DfC) will meet senior borough council representatives on April 21 to press home their arguments that there should be much more detailed discussions on the proposals to cut back the library service.
Darlington for Culture organised a public meeting on Thursday April 7 to discuss imaginative ways to save Crown Street Library, Cockerton Library and the mobile library service, which are threatened as part of the borough council cutbacks.
DfC, which says the closure decision should be delayed by the council to allow a more considered approach involving the wider community, asked interested parties to suggest Another Way, an alternative vision for the library service rather than closures.
Ideas at the meeting at the Forum Music Centre in Borough Road, which was chaired by Nigel Burton, Joint Acting Group Editor of The Northern Echo, which is running its own campaign to save the libraries, included a joint DfC/Age UK plan to run Cockerton Library as a library/community hub in conjunction with the council.
Another idea was Darlington-based football campaigner Shaun Campbell’s proposal for a football heritage museum as part of Crown Street Library or the Dolphin Centre in memory of Arthur Wharton, widely regarded as the first professional black footballer, who had strong Darlington connections.
Council Unison representative Joe White outlined ideas for increased council income generation and council chief executive Ada Burns outlined the financial difficulties facing the authority.
The event was part of a two-pronged Darlington for Culture campaign. DfC has already staged a street protest on March 12 outside Crown Street Library which attracted close to 1,000 people. The second strategy is to explore ways of involving the community in the service.
DfC is also throwing its support behind The Northern Echo’s online petition for a Parliamentary debate on the spending targets that necessitated cuts to important services but does not believe that the council should be absolved from blame and deplores the proposed closure of Crown Street and Cockerton Libraries and the withdrawal of the mobile library service. The organisation is unconvinced that the proposed replacement library in the Dolphin Centre will be anywhere near an adequate replacement.
DfC Chair John Dean said: “Ideally, we want the closure proposals scrapped but we are also exploring opportunities to run the service in a different way if that becomes necessary and the meeting on April 7 was inspiring. The council needs, in our view, to enter into serious discussions about the ideas that came forward, both from the platform and from the floor of the meeting.
“The thousands of people who rely on the library service deserve better from their councillors than a simple decision to close libraries.”
Organisations interested in exploring alternatives to closure are asked to contact DfC on darlo4culture@gmail.com More on the organisation can be found at www.darlingtonforculture.org