Councillor Nick Wallis’s assertion at Cabinet last week that members of the public are mostly concerned about the Crown Street building, and not the library, appears completely at odds with the true feelings of those objecting to the library proposal.
There appears to be an attempt to dismiss the voices of more than 6,000 people who signed The Northern Echo petition to save Crown Street Library, and the almost 1000 people who joined together to protest against its closure, with the suggestion that the vast majority of objectors will be appeased by an offer of a community use for the building once the library has moved.
However, those who have spent time on the streets as part of the campaign are left with no doubt that what the people of Darlington want is for the statutory library service to remain in its rightful home at Crown Street.
This has been confirmed by a poll of members on the Facebook page “Darlington Library – Keep it At Crown Street”. Of the 186 people who responded, 97% said that they would object to the library moving even if a community option were found for the building, with only six people being ok with the library move if a community option were found.
Gemma McDonald, Chair of the Community Libraries Steering Group, said “The alternative proposal submitted by Darlington for Culture was always about finding a way to enable the library service to remain at Crown Street. It was based on the community working closely with Darlington Borough Council (DBC), generating an income at Crown Street to cover the buildings costs, thus enabling DBC to continue running the library service from Crown Street within their budget constraints. The Community Libraries Steering Group would like to make clear that they would not be prepared to put in a proposal to run the Crown Street Building if the library were to be moved.”
She also stated that “It appears that at this late stage there are still so many unanswered questions in terms of the potential risks of the library service moving to the Dolphin Centre, including the very real risk that the Dolphin Centre itself may become unviable in the future. What would happen to the library service if that were to happen? We would call upon the council to defer the library decision until a full range of options for both Crown Street and the Dolphin Centre are fully considered, costed, and risk assessed.
“The speed with which this decision is being taken just does not make sense in the context of the significance of the library service at Crown Street to the people of Darlington, and the huge proposed capital expenditure, saddling the town with 25 years of debt repayments. Councillors have not even been provided with information on how much delaying the decision by a year to explore other options would cost, so how can they possibly be asked take an informed vote on this major issue on Wednesday?”
“Finally, on the issue of the library service itself, the DBC needs assessment has highlighted what a highly performing library service we currently have. With only a small number of part-time posts in the proposed Dolphin Centre staffing structure, we have real concerns about the impact this proposal will have on our wonderful library service and the loss of the excellent staff who deliver it.”
“We call upon the council to delay the decision on the library service until the above questions have been fully addressed and all information relevant to this irreversible decision is made available.”