Suffolk: Protest over looming cuts for libraries

PROTESTERS were out in force this weekend over proposed cuts to Suffolk’s libraries.

More than 75 adults and children gathered outside Ipswich County Library to voice their concerns about the changes, which may see a number of the region’s smaller libraries close.

Youngsters read from their favourite books and adults – a number of whom were teachers – rallied with placards reading “Leave our Libraries Alone”.

Similar protests took place in Chelmsford and Colchester last week, with residents fighting for their treasured libraries.

Roger Mackay, organiser of the protest and president of the Ipswich and District Trades Union Council, told the East Anglian Daily Times that he feared cuts proposed by Suffolk County Council would lead to closures.

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He said: “By looking at the national figures, which reflect a closure of 40% of libraries, a great number of our Suffolk libraries could be affected.

“It could be that our libraries are closed and re-opened with volunteers taking the place of fully-qualified librarians – to do this would be a massive disservice to all those who use the service.

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“We currently don’t know the extent of what the cuts will mean for our libraries but years ago, when the Tories were in power, we fought to keep Rose Hill Library in Ipswich open and we will do it all again.”

Margaret Bulaitis, a teacher in the Ipswich area who was also leading the rally, said that without a high amount of libraries, literacy rates in the region would decrease.

Judy Terry, county councillor with responsibility for libraries, said that while cuts needed to be made, she advised communities to come forward with ideas on how the service should be run. “We need to make significant cuts and we will be launching a consultation this week to see how we should move forward with our libraries,” she said.

“We will have to make a saving of about 30% on the library budget – management savings will make up 10% of that but we must find the other 20%.”

She said talks were under way with local bodies, who have expressed an interest in libraries.

“They are a valuable community resource,” she added. “But I think we need to look at alternatives – for example Gainsborough Library in Ipswich also has a caf�.

“We have a lot of volunteers in libraries across the county already and I would really urge communities to come forward and tell us how they want their library service to be run.”

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