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Suffolk libraries debate gets more confused

Why is Cllr Judy Terry denying that there was “any threat that the county would be left with just three libraries”? She is, so far as I know, the first person to make such a suggestion.

Abandoning the categories of “county” and “community” libraries, not mentioned in today’s (March 1) East Anglian Daily Times front page splash, was bound to create confusion.

It seemed to those of use at Friday’s meeting, between the council and library campaigners, to put more libraries into the group which were looking for community solutions. But none of us thought for a moment that Suffolk County Council could claim to meet its Libraries Act requirements with just three libraries.

As Mrs Terry tells the EADT: “That would not be providing the level of service that the government says is needed.”

Stuart Fitzgerald, a vice president of LSSI (UK) Ltd, the American-owned for profit library outsourcing business which has approached Suffolk, told the paper:

We are not interested in taking ownership of the library buildings or the library stock, the books and other stock.

What we would do is manage the libraries much more efficiently than the county council is able to do which would push down costs.

That does not mean libraries would be open for shorter hours – if anything we would like to extend the hours many of the libraries open to ensure they are open when people want to use them.

We would work with the communities these libraries serve. We would have a qualified manager in the library who would be responsible for opening hours, for managing the stock and arranging events.

The manager would be supported by the community that uses the library to help to staff it.

And he throws the whole consultation taking place into further confusion by suggesting: “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.”

The mention of smaller libraries open about 20 hours a week, suggests he would like to run all 44 libraries in the county.

If that is even on the table for the discussions between county officials and LSSI which Mrs Terry would like to see, what is the purpose of continuing the current consultation?

In the meantime, there is a petition to save all Suffolk libraries on the council’s petitions website. Paper copies of the same petition, with details of where they should be returned, are here.

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