Video: Suffok’s mobile library is a lifeline for rural readers

Rory and Tibo Salter choose their next reads Rory and Tibo Salter choose their next reads

Sunday, July 27, 2014
10:30 AM

Reading is one of life’s great pleasures. And for some of Suffolk’s rural communities the mobile library service is a lifeline that allows them to enjoy this simple pleasure.

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James Marston meets some of the users of the Suffolk Mobile Library Service in the village of Laxfield James Marston meets some of the users of the Suffolk Mobile Library Service in the village of Laxfield

James Marston finds out more.

On a sunny day there’s nowhere finer than the villages of Suffolk.

Driving north through the countryside from Framlingham through Dennington and into picturesque Laxfield is a summer treat.

And on the stroke of 11am the clock strikes in the impressive tower of All Saint’s Laxfield.

James Marston meets some of the users of the Suffolk Mobile Library Service in the village of Laxfield 
Librarian Peter Fiske with Anne MillsJames Marston meets some of the users of the Suffolk Mobile Library Service in the village of Laxfield Librarian Peter Fiske with Anne Mills

A moment later on Church Plain, just outside The Royal Oak pub, the mobile library takes it place for its monthly visit.

Peter Fiske is the library’s driver and librarian.

And within minutes the former policeman, is busy stamping in and out books and chatting to library users.

He said: “It’s the best job in the world. After leaving the police after 30-plus years, I worked for Suffolk County Council.

James Marston meets some of the users of the Suffolk Mobile Library Service in the village of Laxfield James Marston meets some of the users of the Suffolk Mobile Library Service in the village of Laxfield

“I decided I wanted a career change and a new job and this came up. I get to go to nice places and meet nice people. It is a lovely job.”

Today Peter is going to be in Laxfield for about an hour – he has already been to Peasenhall and Heveningham and his next stops will include Cratfield, Huntingfield and Walpole. It is one of the 17 monthly routes the library takes across the county.

Peter said the library has in excess of a thousand titles of books, CDs, DVDs and audio books.

He added: “We have a revolving stock as people can bring their books back here they have loaned from other libraries. Ladies tend to like romantic fiction and murder and thrillers. The gentlemen like thrillers as well as crime. A lot of the men also like history and local history.”

Suffolk Mobile Libraries – Fast Facts

• There are three mobile libraries.

• The libraries visit more than 475 stops in more than 200 villages.

• The libraries stock a wide selection of books including fiction, non fiction, classics, children’s books, travel, biographies, and cook books.

• Alongside books the libraries stock CDs, DVDs and audio books.

• As well as villages the libraries visit a selection of towns and communities.

Popular authors include Jeffrey Archer, Clive Cussler and Susan Lewis.

By 11.10am Bernard Mills is returning and choosing his next month’s reading.

The 79-year-old is also a verger at the village church and has plumped for two historical novels.

He said: “This is an excellent service, the library comes here once and month. I like novels and biographies and I have chosen two novels by Cynthia Harrod Eagles in the Morland dynasty series.”

Bernard has also chosen a novel for his wife Ann.

The retired insurance broker added: “The mobile library is very convenient and a very valuable service. We look forward to its visit.”

As customers come and go the library is busy.

Elaine Nason, 75, lives in the village.

She said: “I don’t drive so this is a wonderful service for me. I try to plan it so I don’t miss it.”

Elaine is choosing an audiobook.

She said: “I’ve just brought back an audio book of short stories by Katherine Mansfield. I am an artist and I like to listen to books while I am painting. It is wonderful to have this service.”

For 83-year-old Ethel Ayers the mobile library is very convenient.

She has chosen four romantic novels.

She said: “I have been coming here for many years. I am also able to get books in large print which is a great help to me. It is very easy to use and I like the choice. If there is anything in particular I want they get it in for me.”

James Powell, marketing and communications manager for Suffolk Libraries said: “This service is a lifeline for many of Suffolk’s rural communities. Last year our mobile libraries covered a total of 30,926 miles and our mobiles visit over 200 villages and 475 individual stops.

“There are three mobile libraries and three mobile routes – we refer to them as Saxmundham, Ipswich and Bury as this is where the vehicles are based but they generally cover west, east and central Suffolk. Between them the three mobile libraries issued around 90,000 books and other loans such as CDs last year.”

James said people can borrow books for up to eight weeks from the mobiles which visit every four weeks. As with the static libraries people can borrow 20 items at a time.

James added: “As well as borrowing books you can sign up and join the library service on the mobile, plus as with other libraries you can go online and reserve items, then pick them up when the mobile visits.

“Also you can borrow a book from any of the 44 static libraries and return it to the mobile. Most people who use the service tend to be older people but it’s a service which is available to everyone and the mobiles stock a selection of children’s books too, so we’d always welcome new customers of all ages.”

As if on cue Rory, 7, and Tibo, 5, take a peek inside the mobile library and head straight to the children’s section.

Rory said: “I enjoy reading adventure and funny books. The choice here is pretty good. I like reading.”

By midday the visit is all over and Peter turns on the engine – next stop Cratfield.

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