Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Cudworth History Group and Library Closure Focus Meeting

On Monday and Wednesday mornings I attend meetings of the Cudworth Local History and Heritage Group.  (Just noticed the Heritage in the title - I must, out of interest, remember to ask them some time what their definition of heritage is ...).  The Group (henceforth CLHG) meet at the Cudworth Centre of Excellence (or library to some of us!) from 10am to 12 noon.

Some time ago we were asked by the librarians to fill in some forms about using the facilities of the library.  Last week several of us were contacted by phone, presumably using the contact details on the forms, and invited to attend a Focus Group about the impact that the closure of the Centre would have on us as both individuals and as CLHG.  This caused some consternation at the meeting last week with some members (please bear in mind that the majority are elderly) being confused about the meaning of the meeting and assuming that the Cudworth Centre was doomed! 

The lady from the Council came today, she was very pleasant, a Cudworth born person herself apparently and she seemed sympathetic.  However she was also obviously determined to save the jobs of her staff, talk of volunteers to man the libraries for instance did not go down terribly well.  There are 10 Centres in her section and due to Barnsley Council having to save £16 million and her budgets for maintenance and staff not having increased in 5 years cuts will have to be made.  The reason for the meeting was to find out how the users of the Centre would be affected by its closure.  She seemed keen to record information about 'vulnerable' users, children, disabled people, elderly people and so on.  I got the impression that the case for each Centre would be established not just on cost of the building and staff but also on what the impact of its loss to the local community would be.  Alternative suggestions for venues ranged from Grimethorpe to Penistone and the Shafton ALC was mentioned (though no-one was very keen on attending a 'school').  Members of CLHG made a point of mentioning that the Cudworth LHG was community based and that transplanting it somewhere else would change its character.  The other problem is that the CLHG's archive and equipment are also stored in the Centre (which itself isn't large enough to house all the filing cabinets, several are stored in the Council Offices in Cudworth and are very difficult to access). 

The discussion was so intense that the coffee break was forgotten about!

Two of the members of the CLHG that I talk to often are LL and BS.  They are amongst the more IT literate of the membership.  LL is creating a spreadsheet of names of Cudworth people taken from many different sources of information, electoral rolls, census returns, parish records etc, but it seems that she has recently had a problem and her listing has become corrupt.  BS (who is very methodical) thinks that he may be able to mend the list as the problems appear to have been caused by a misalignment of cells within the spreadsheet following the insertion of some information within the last month. 

At CLHG there are at least 3 different filing systems. 
  1. The Cudworth Image Archive where photographs are saved together with the names of the people in them and some limited information about the places and events depicted.  Now in Access, previously in the Comma system which is no longer supported.
  2. The Secretary's filing system, recently moved from Works to Excel which has the most complex categorisation system you have ever seen for newspaper cuttings, ephemera, articles and submitted written memories. 
  3. LL's index of people which is an Excel spreadsheet.
It occurs to me that a Family History programme or similar (does Custodian still exist?) would be much better for keeping all this information together.  I need to think about this.

Added later: link to Custodian and the trial version is free from the downloads page.

LL herself said after the meeting that if the Centre closes she would 'fade away' as coming to the meetings and doing research for the Group is her main activity.  I think this might apply to more than one member.  So cross fingers that the Cudworth centre is too new and too useful to close.

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