One issue among a number that concern me, although not in the front of most people’s minds, is the most valuable and irreplaceable Doncaster Archives.
I have deep concerns regarding the present site for Doncaster Archives at King Edward Road, Balby. The building is old, 106 years old. In itself this should not be a problem but the building is not in good repair. As one pulls up outside the first impression is that it is not even occupied. There is nothing bright and cheerful to invite a visitor in.
The paintwork is tired and the area is quite dismal. Inside is not so very different, but at least there the staff are able to put their stamp on things. The front office for visitors is at least clean and functional.
The back room for the staff is difficult to describe. One wonders when any time or money was spent on this room. The paintwork is so bad that large areas are peeling off the wall. It must be a depressing room to work in. The building, originally Balby Junior Mixed school, was converted as Doncaster Archives in 1982 as a temporary measure. Over the years it has been patched up but little seems to been spent on it since then. That said I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the senior archivist and his staff.
Doncaster Council has a large number of buildings, many of which need to be disposed of. It must be possible to move the Archives to a more central and more satisfactory building. The King Edward Road site could then be sold and re-developed. To continue in the present building is a very poor option and should not be considered beyond the short term.
Doncaster holds a wonderful collection but the present site does not do that collection justice. This collection needs to held in totally safe conditions to preserve the archived material. What I have seen brings me to believe that our archives may not be safe.
There is a plan to reorganise the Library & Information Services, including linking the Local Studies in the Central Library and The Archives Search Room at King Edward Road. This would mean that the search room would then be a mile from the records.
Any researcher ordering a document but finding further documents were required would have to reorder the documents from the Archives and come back days later to see them. This is a very long-winded system.
At present and since 1982 the researcher would speak to Archive staff who usually find the document within minutes.
The new plan may be cheaper but will result in an ineffective service and says nothing about where the valuable archives are to be housed.
Doncaster Council must look again at this situation. The plan is far too limited and doesn’t address important problems.
* Eric Tatton-Kelly, Doncaster Liberal Democrat councillor