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Suffolk library chief reveals ideas to help boost visitor numbers

PUBLISHED: 08:00 20 August 2018

Bruce Leeke talks about his vision for Suffolk's libraries.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Bruce Leeke talks about his vision for Suffolk's libraries. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Last week this newspaper revealed that the total footfall at Suffolk’s Libraries was down by around 60,000 visits in 2017/8 from 2014/5.

Last week this newspaper revealed that the total footfall at Suffolk’s Libraries was down by around 60,000 visits in 2017/8 from 2014/5.

Now Bruce Leeke, the chief executive of Suffolk Libraries, says the service will try and engage with people in a number of different ways.

“It’s not just about books,” said Mr Leeke, “and we have a vision of more people visiting libraries to make the most of an ever-increasing range of services for many aspects of their lives.”

One part of this vision which the service is focusing is activities run at each of the individual sites.

Attendances at activities run by Suffolk Libraries have increased in the past few years from 155,876 attendances at 9,534 sessions in 2015/16 to 182,298 attendances at 12,659 sessions in 2017/18.

“Our activities for children and families are hugely popular as are our regular social activities for older people,” said Mr Leeke.

“One group of people we are keen to do more for is younger people. One prime example is the recent launch of our new Arts Council funded programme ‘Building Libraries on Creativity’ which we hope will provide more engaging and attractive activities for younger people over the next few years.

“It’s important to us to keep on providing a high-quality library experience for our traditional customers too.”

Changing opening hours will continue to be important for Suffolk Libraries according to the chief executive.

Mr Leeke said that adjusting opening time was helping to “reflect local need” at libraries like Kedington, Needham Market and Haverhill where it has recently been implemented.

Kesgrave library, which changed its opening hours bucked the visitor number trend with numbers growing by about 122% in four years.

Mr Leeke also hopes that creating more modern spaces at libraries such as Eye, Needham Market and Mildenhall libraries in the next few years will help attract more visitors.

“Suffolk Libraries is always looking at new ways of engaging with customers and encouraging more people to visit and use their local library to discover the huge range of services and activities they provide,” said Mr Leeke.

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