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County in talks with US library company rejected ‘management buy-out’

Suffolk which is talking to an American library services company rejected suggestions of a management buy-out by county library staff on the grounds that it was “not local enough”.

Several sources tell similar stories. In one, the idea of a management buy-out was floated in a staff meeting to be rejected on the “not local enough” grounds.

In another, the idea of staff forming a Library Trust was suggested. The answer was “No” because libraries which might be divested needed to be taken over an run on an individual community basis.

It appears that a high-level decision had been taken within the County Council that no librarian-run county-wide solution would meet the New Strategic Direction policy of divesting the running of county services.

As a result, there was no further investigation or development of management buy-out/trust ideas. Now there is anger among library staff that  the county council, after refusing to take their ideas seriously, is discussing the future with an American for-profit business.

Quite what the County Council is now considering as a solution for library services is unknown. This confusion follows the abandonment of the county and community libraries classification (counsultations documents), which suggested 15 “county libraries” were safe while 29 “community libraries” would have to be run by communities or be closed.

There is now talk of three core libraries at Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft.

LSSI, an American library services outsourcing company, has been in talks with Suffolk County Council.

A comment from LSSI suggests they are interested in taking over small libraries as well as the larger ones. Stuart Fitzgerald of LSSI, told the East Anglian Daily Times:

We want to ensure that the libraries become real community hubs – some of the smaller libraries only open about 20 hours a week. We would ensure they are open when people want to use them and can be used for meetings or other community events.

Footnote: Neil Clark in the Guardian writes a comment article under the heading “Don’t privatise our libraries” while Jame Hargrave blogs on the local situation saying, “Now it looks like all of the libraries could potentially be privatised.”

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