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Suffolk press release on future of libraries

Here is the press release issued today, July 7, in full with notes.

Libraries saved in major Suffolk-wide shake up

Public consultation shapes the way ahead

Suffolk County Council’s cabinet will this month be asked to approve a vision and model for the future of library services in Suffolk – which would retain the library network and put it on a strong and sustainable footing for the future.

Following a four-month public consultation in which 5000 people expressed their views, cabinet will be recommended1 to support a structure that would see libraries transferred into a central organisation.

The structure of such an organisation is to be subject to a best value evaluation, following which a report will be presented to cabinet in November on the best operating model. It would manage the libraries budget and be designed to support libraries with services such as the countywide book network, employing staff, training and developing outreach services such as taking books into communities and bringing people to their nearest library.

In the meantime, the council will be working to deliver a number of partnership pilots with town or parish councils, community or staff groups keen on running a library – providing them with the flexibility, funding and support to make it a success. Given that a wide range of groups have come forward with proposals to run their own libraries, it is hoped that the pilots will act as a model elsewhere. Community involvement is critical to the success of the vision throughout Suffolk and the council will work with other groups to develop their business plans.

Councillor Judy Terry, Suffolk County Council’s Portfolio Holder responsible for libraries, thanked everyone who had taken the time to work with the council. She said:

“What has been fundamental for us is the need to take account of the views of Suffolk people and we have listened. This is a decision that will affect us all so it’s important we are all part of it.

“Many of the ideas and principles within the proposal have come from communities themselves. Building on libraries as community hubs, supporting outreach work and enabling pilot projects to flourish were all things people told us they wanted.

“Most important of all was not closing any of Suffolk’s libraries. We feel the proposals being put forward strike the right balance between protecting much-loved council services whilst finding necessary and unavoidable financial savings. The proposals in fact put Suffolk’s libraries on a more sustainable footing for the future – something we can all agree is needed.

“So many people told us that libraries should be community hubs for everyone but especially young people, vulnerable and older people. We absolutely support this and will now work to make sure that ambition becomes a reality.”

The changes to Suffolk’s library services will mean the council is able to save 30% of its libraries budget over three years (2011/12 – 2013/14) whilst keeping the county’s libraries open. Suffolk County Council would retain its role and responsibilities as the statutory library authority for the county.

At the meeting, cabinet will also be asked to approve a new public consultation on how mobile library services can be restructured to retain the service and make necessary savings. A proposal to change the frequency of mobile visits from fortnightly to monthly – bringing Suffolk in line with its county neighbours – will be put to the public. Absolutely no decision will be made on mobile libraries until after the views expressed during the public consultation have been taken into account.

Commenting on mobile libraries, Cllr Terry said:

“I do not want anyone to jump to any conclusions on mobile libraries. The review has demonstrated to us that there could be a more efficient way of running the service in order to keep it going – so we’re going to explore those issues via an open public consultation. No decisions will be made until we’ve taken those views into account.”

ENDSNotes to editors:

1) Suffolk County Council’s cabinet will be recommended to:

  • Note the responses to the public consultation on library services
  • Adopt the proposed Vision for the Future of Suffolk Libraries
  • Adopt the proposed access model for library services
  • Authorise a best value evaluation of the proposed structural model options
  • Agree to undertake a public consultation on the proposed changes to the mobile library service
  • Agree to pilot the running of some local libraries with specific groups that have expressed an interest in working in partnership with the county council
  • Agree to receive a further report on 8 November evaluating the proposed structural model
    options and the outcomes from the public consultation on mobile libraries.


2) A best value evaluation will be conducted to investigate which of the following models would provide the best value for the proposed countywide support body:

  • An in-house county council business unit – a similar model to the existing Schools Library Service
  • An external but wholly-county council owned company or enterprise
  • An independent company or enterprise managed by Suffolk County Council through contractual arrangements.

Option two and three present opportunities for members of the public to be more influential in decision making – for example being members of boards. No decisions have yet been made – these will take place, in public, in November 2011.

Cabinet will meet at Endeavour House on 19 July 2011 at 11:00am.

The libraries consultation was run from Tuesday 18 January 2011 until Saturday 30 April 2011.

The 2011 Review of Library Services and the full cabinet papers are available on the county council’s website: www.suffolk.gov.uk/librariesfeedback



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