Suffolk: Libraries are ready to fight their corner as they win independence from county council.

SO far the changes have been very subtle – a sign here, a new website there – but there the brave new world for Suffolk’s libraries has started with the service being transferred out of direct county council control.

The new Suffolk Libraries IPS (Industrial and Provident Society) took over the service from the start of August.

Chair Shona Bendix emphasised that while this would not mean major immediate changes, it was very important for the service as a whole.

She said: “We are an organisation totally dedicated to managing the county’s libraries. That means we can fight the our corner with the county council.

“We are not part of the county’s bureaucracy and do not have any other issues to worry about. We are in a stronger position to get funding that libraries need from the county.”

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Ms Bendix said the new organisation had inherited all the libraries in Suffolk from the county – and was confident they would all still be open in three or four years’ time.

She said that the libraries had the best of both worlds – individual branches could manage themselves as they wanted, fixing hours and running special events, while still being part of a large organisation so you could borrow a book from Aldeburgh library and return it to Bury St Edmunds.

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“That is not going to change, and it is at the heart of the library operation. But individual libraries will be able to determine their hours.”

Although the number of libraries should stay the same, it was not impossible that at some time in the future they could be moved to other buildings to better serve communities.

Ms Bendix said this would only happen if it was what communities wanted: “We would only consider that if there was a genuine need. Our emphasis is on supporting and developing our current libraries.

“There has been a great response from the public. At some libraries, like Bungay and Wickham Market there are many volunteers with great ideas which mean they are already looking at extended hours and more events.”

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