Suffolk: County’s Libraries to get a computer update from government

SUFFOLK’S library service is to get a major software update as it is being transferred to a new not-for-profit operation.

The county’s libraries have linked up with the Cambridgeshire service to get a �250,000 government grant to introduce the software which should improve the service it offers customers.

A spokesman for Suffolk said the grant would be split equally between the two authorities. Suffolk would get �125,000 which would cover the �105,000 cost of buying in the software and running it for more than a year.

He said: “This is a very good deal because not only will the software be much better, it will also cost less to operate – �15,000 a year rather than the �55,000 a year the current system costs.”

The new software had been due to come into operation in April, but because it is also being introduced in Cambridgeshire its full introduction is likely to be delayed a few weeks.

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The spokesman said: “This is a purely practical delay – we need to ensure the new system works properly before it is actually brought on line.”

Suffolk’s library service is due to be transferred from direct county council control to the new Industrial and Provident Society (IPS) in April – and the new software should ensure its running costs are reduced substantially from the start of its operation.

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Meanwhile campaigners against changes to Suffolk’s libraries joined a national lobby in Westminster which set up a new body, “Speak up for Libraries,” to urge the government to support the sector.

They took part in a rally in London ahead of a hearing by the Culture, Media and Sport select committee on library closures.

Shadow culture minister Dan Jarvis claimed libraries minister Ed Vaizey faced becoming the “Dr Beeching of libraries” – a reference to Richard Beeching, who was behind the closure of many railway routes.

Addressing the library rally, he said: “It’s a generation since Dr Richard Beeching published a report which led to the closure of a third of the UK rail network, in what was subsequently seen as an act of monumental short-sightedness.”

Ruth Bond, chairman of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, said: “As champions of libraries for the last 96 years, WI members are dismayed to see the Government stand by while our library service crumbles.”

John Dolan of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, said: “By combating illiteracy and providing escape, inspiration and knowledge, libraries and librarians change lives for the better.

“We are deeply concerned that libraries are being damaged by cuts to staff, opening hours and book budgets. While the impact is being felt now, its effect will be long-term.”

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