LIBRARY SERVICES in Suffolk will enter a new era tomorrow, as responsibility for their day to day running transfers from Suffolk County Council to Suffolk’s Libraries IPS (IPS).
From Wednesday 1 August, all of Suffolk’s 44 libraries and the mobile, school and prison services will come under the direct control of the IPS — a first in the country — which will work in partnership with local library groups to support and expand the service.
It will also take responsibility for employing all paid library staff — who will also make the transition with the service.
Unlike others parts of the UK which have had to close libraries, reduce opening hours or move from paid staff to volunteers to reduce costs, the Suffolk solution means all libraries have been saved and paid staff are not being replaced with volunteers.
Councillor Judy Terry, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member responsible for libraries, said:
"The future of all of Suffolk's libraries is secure. That is something I am immensely proud and pleased to be able to say.
"We've seen councils elsewhere in the UK forced to close libraries or reduced opening hours in order to balance the books. The Suffolk model is the complete opposite.
"By creating an IPS to take the service forward, we've found a way of saving money, opening up new funding opportunities and given community groups a real say in how the service is delivered.
"This week is a key milestone in our determined work to give Suffolk's library service a sound foundation for future growth."
As this new chapter opens for Suffolk's libraries, customers will see no change in the high quality service they receive. However, within a year they should start benefiting from extended opening hours in some libraries as the IPS works closely with community groups to extend the service.
The IPS board has been working since January to take over the service (which will still be funded by the county council) and develop a financially and operationally sustainable model for the future.
Shona Bendix, Suffolk's Libraries IPS' chair, said:
"Suffolk's Libraries IPS has a very strong and very clear aim - to do what's best for the future of the service. This fundamental principle is what's driving all of us to do what we can to make sure our much-loved libraries are able to flourish and continue to be well-used for decades to come.
"What has been quite clear in the last seven months is the unwavering dedication that so many people have to their local library and the service as a whole. It's exactly that commitment and enthusiasm that we want to harness for the good of the communities we will be serving.
"This point has been a long time coming but I firmly believe that the IPS has found a way to take Suffolk's library service forward to bigger and better things."
On Friday 20 July, a small event was held at Bungay Library to mark the handover from the county council to the IPS.