Save Our Libraries!

The PermaFuture Project is still under development, so we weren’t planning on starting a blog or website just yet, but the situation regarding Doncaster’s libraries is too urgent to wait.

In the face of drastic spending cuts Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council (DMBC) have decided to close 14 of its 26 local libraries…

Picture from Save Doncaster Libraries

The council allege that they’re targeting libraries in our region which are ‘under used’, but Save Doncaster Libraries refute this claim:

This is simply not the case. Cantley Library, for example, is an incredibly well-used library which serves a huge area including Cantley, Branton, Auckley, Finningley and Blaxton, yet is under threat of closure. If any libraries are under-used, it is because their opening hours and resources do not meet the needs of their communities. This is due to poor management by the council and a lack of promotion of the role and resources of the library service, not a lack of need from the people of Doncaster. Julie Grant, Assistant Director of Customer Strategy and Development admits in the Library Service Review itself that:

“We recognise that our marketing and outreach resources are insufficient to have real impact.”

So we’ll say it again: the closures are based on cost-cutting alone, the review is a sham, and the changes and the proposals do not take into account the needs of communities or the value of libraries.

As our fiery friends the Barnsdale Brigade pointed out recently…

As we’ve said before the only real way to fight the coalitions devastating attacks on community life (it’s ironic that their proposed ‘Big Society’ is going to be used to decimate ‘Small Community’) is to focus the remaining public funds and existing resources on the development of a sustainable and self-sufficient local infrastructure.

Doncaster has an incredibly rich and varied resource base – fertile agricultural areas, strong centralised transport links, vast swathes of council/public owned land, an abundance of brownfield sites, several unique ecologies, an industrious if undervalued populace, etc, etc – which should make us one of the richest regions rather than the poorest. The only reason we’re not thriving is because central government – both Tory and Labour – have continuously dis-empowered local government – and local government has consistently aided and abetted them!

The economic crisis, combined with peak-oil and climate change, now makes greater localisation a vital imperative. The council should focus its expenditure on promoting locally produced energy, food and resources rather than the appeasement of central government and big business. This would allow more money to circulate for longer within our communities, which would in turn protect people during the hard times ahead. We need to become ever less reliant on an ever less reliable government.

In order to do this we must develop the relevant knowledge and skills within our communities. And local libraries would be perfect for such an endeavor!

Libraries are not just about literacy – though Doncaster has such a low literacy rate that this alone should be reason to keep them open – they’re about knowledge and communication – which will be vital to the creation of a self-reliant future.

We think that they’re absolutely right. Our libraries are not in trouble because they’re ‘under-used’ by the people, they’re struggling because they’re under-valued by the DMBC. As storehouses of knowledge and centres of communication our libraries could become the perfect places to research, develop and promote the skills and knowledge vital to a self-sufficient and sustainable future. This wouldn’t require any extra funding, just a little imagination and reserve – both from local residents and the local authorities.

William Kamkwamba‘s story illustrates perfectly how important libraries can be.

As a child growing up in Malawi, William survived a terrible famine. His family were unable to pay for his education, so he decided to educate himself by visiting the local library. Here he found a book called Using Energy which contained pictures and information about wind turbines. Realising that wind generated energy could help with irrigation he decided to build a wind-turbine for his family. Using library books he taught himself physics and mechanics, and using scrap materials like an old bicycle, old radios and a rusty nail for a drill he began to experiment. At just 14 years old he succeeded in building his first windmill.

William has built several windmills since which help to provide electricity for his family and to pump water to their crops. In 2010 William Kamkwamba was one of four recipients of the GO Ingenuity Award, a prize awarded by the Santa Monica based nonprofit GO Campaign. The grant helps Kamkwamba hold workshops for youth in his home village, teaching them how to make windmills and repair water pumps, both of which proved to be transformative skills for this young African leader.

You can read William’s full story in his inspirational book ‘The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind‘ – why not order it through your local library!

Anyone interested in creating a better future for our children will realise how important libraries are, and what a powerful tool they could be if they were not so under valued. Join the campaign to SAVE DONCASTER LIBRARIES!

And if you not lucky enough to be a Doncastrian, but still live in the UK you might want to check out this map of cuts and proposed cuts to libraries throughout Britain –

Published by The PermaFuture Project

We combine Permaculture and survivalist ethics and strategies to plan for a sustainable and self-sufficient future - both for individuals and communities.

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