I was able to get to the Pear Tree Library meeting yesterday. These are some notes from the meeting. As far as possible, they will be neutral in tone, and not too descriptive; this is mainly so that they are clear in terms of what was said at the meeting. I have added extra information as appropriate.
The meeting was organised by Sonya from the Mandela Community Centre.
Last June, the library was closed for repairs. It has been closed since then. There was a proposal to pay for the repairs but it may have been rejected.
In November, the council announced that the library was being relocated.
It seems that the Council Cabinet decided on the sale with no further consultation: it was not discussed at the wider council level, and no further consultation with the community, although there was a meeting (but no one could remember when) to tell the community is was happening.
There was no information about the single quote for the roof, or how any of repairs were costed.
Since the library has been closed since last June, and the new proposed library is still not open, this means that there has been no library provision in the Normanton area for almost a year.
This should be alarming to all Derby citizens. According to the council's own Strategic Review (hence SR), it was the most-needed library section for its catchment area (SR section 6.20). This assessment was based on
- the building's location in most socio-economically disadvantaged catchment (SR 6.9);
- the fact that it was the third busiest library (SR 6.12); and
- that Pear Tree covered a wider catchment area and was used by users outside the library catchment area (SR 6.15).
The challenges we face are:
- what do we want the building to be? If we are to take the council at its word (and — less neutrally — I do not think that we should) then there will already be "a library" in the Normanton catchment area by 2020. We talked about what the library was used for, and what else could bring in.
- who should pay for it, and how? If it were decided to acquire Pear Tree as a community-run space, then the community would have to find funds to run it. There were suggestions about possible stakeholders in such a space, and opportunities for access funding for renovation/conservation.
- how much should the council be involved? This was decided pretty quickly — any organising group needed to be separate from party political discussions, as this was a community matter. There was a strong feeling in the room that this kind of negligence was an on-going pattern for the council with regards to Normanton/Pear Tree.
From the meeting, we formed an organising group. There are no councillors on that group as it was decided that any campaign should be separate from party political influence. I am not sure of the other names on the group but Sonya is chairing it and has the names.
- there is an application to nominate the library as an Asset of Community Value. If successful, this will delay the sale for six months, which will give us time to plan, raise funds, &c.
- Sonya is putting together Freedom of Information requests pertaining to the quotes and decision-making processes.
- We are doing some research into whether the building was a gift to the people of Derby — this may put it into the same position as Bass Recreation Ground, which could not be sold as it did not belong to the council.
- There is a petition on Change.org
- There is also a Facebook Page
- The organising group is going to try and have a meeting this week.
There is a viewing of the interior today at 12:30p.m. I requested a slot, but no one got back to me; I'll try to head down anyway.