Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 15°C

min temp: 9°C

ESTD 1874 Search

Suffolk: Book borrowing declines but county’s libraries start a new chapter

11:44 22 March 2014

Book borrowing at Suffolk

Book borrowing at Suffolk's libraries is dwindling but e-book borrowing is rapidly increasing


Book borrowing from Suffolk’s libraries has fallen by the equivalent of almost 2,000 a day over the past two years, the EADT can disclose.


Thurston Library:

Richard Fawcett, chairman of the Friends of Thurston Library, explained he enjoyed giving back to the community.

“The library is part of the community which provides a wider concept of learning other than books and computers,” he said. “It is a welcoming place in which people feel comfortable, but has changed from a completely book-use only service. I think we were the first library to have free Wi-fi and e-readers have an extended role with computers.

“But it is a very positive story in terms of libraries in Suffolk. It is certainly the case they play a much bigger role in communities, which is very welcome following the possible picture of library closures.”

But library bosses have united in defence of the “important community hubs”, arguing they play an increasingly vital role in rural areas and provide a positive social and learning experience for families, students and older people.

They insisted Suffolk’s libraries are not under threat, but urged people not to take them for granted.

The backing comes after new findings showed the number of books borrowed from libraries in the county has fallen by around 350,000 in each of the last two years. It dropped from 3,925,216 in 2010/11 to 3,236,652 in 2012/13.

It means that around 10,800 books were loaned out every day in Suffolk three years ago, compared to 8,900 last year – some 1,900 fewer. Average daily visits also fell, from around 9,870 three years ago to 9,250 last year.

The latest research, seen by the EADT, also showed the number of people borrowing books slumped by 22% in the same two-year period, from 127,409 to 99,188.

But Alison Wheeler, general manager of Suffolk Libraries, said that although libraries have had to change a “great deal” in recent years to offer a greater range of services and activities, they are in a “genuinely strong position” than when all 44 of the county’s libraries were transferred from Suffolk County Council control in August 2012.

Suffolk’s libraries are now part of an Industrial and Provident Society, a not-for-profit, independent and charitable organisation set up in August 2012 to run the service.

The deal, the first of its kind in the country, saved 29 branches threatened by proposed cuts. Mrs Wheeler insisted there were no immediate plans to close any branches or cut staff. She insisted the service and opening times of libraries have not been cut despite facing a squeezed budget of £2million less than two years ago.

She explained that while traditional library use is changing, the focus must be placed on the opportunities rather than “doom and gloom”.

She said: “The modern library service is much more than the borrowing of physical books; it’s about older people meeting up together, families learning together, social networking, people using facilities to find employment and study. It has changed a lot from 20, and even 10, years ago.

“We have 44 support groups after winning the battle to keep our libraries. But we must not be complacent. Libraries have got to raise their profile in the community, and we are reaching out even more than before. They cannot be taken for granted.

“We have a huge army of volunteers. They have not replaced paid staff; they augment the service. They are the beating heart of the library experience.”

And while she admitted the target for the number of physical books being loaned is to never dip below the three million mark, she argued there are many more varied measures to gauge the general health of libraries.

She said their “stable situation” is being strengthened with an increasing range of services and activities, with the service being run as “efficiently as possible”.

“We are just as committed to the physical book, and although there could be a wider selection and fewer copies, we have to think about the future.”


1 comment

  • i hope those channels the bookshelfs are standing on are fixed to the bookshelfs.

    Report this comment


    Saturday, March 22, 2014

The entrance to PPG Industries in Stowmarket. (File image from 2012)

Two males believed to be from Afghanistan have been arrested on immigration offences in Stowmarket this morning.

Airman 1st Class Darren Phillips, 48th Equipment Maintenance Squadron crew chief at RAF Lakenheath, who died in a motorcycle accident

A memorial service for a 20-year-old US Air Force airman who died after a crash near Barton Mills is being held.

Police attended to the incident

A car has crashed into a house in Bury St Edmunds and destroyed a fish tank.

Woodbridge Shuck Shellfish Festival

If you’d like to treat your tastebuds this weekend, you’re in the right place.

Dr John Ashdown-Hill from Lawford is made an MBE by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.  Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

A historian who was instrumental in the discovery of Richard III’s remains has today been presented with an MBE.

Miss Teen Suffolk Emma Collingridge who is opening Framlingham Sausagefest, with orgainsers Jenny Stockman and Richard Harrison.

Organisers behind Framlingham’s annual SausageFest have said they are expecting a record number of visitors to the event tomorrow.

Police are investigating the incident

Police have issued CCTV images of three people they are keen to identify following a theft from a Co-op supermarket in Felixstowe

The River Alde from Snape looking towards the sea.

Consultation will start next month on proposals for the future management of one of Suffolk’s most precious but vulnerable estuaries.

Police attended the accident

Emergency services have been called to a crash between a car and a cyclist in Colchester.

The Robin Hood Country Show will feature a jousting display.

Looking for something to do this weekend? Here are our top ideas.

Most read

Most commented

Topic pages