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Surge in attendance figures marks seven years of Suffolk Libraries

This Thursday (1 August) marks seven years since Suffolk Libraries was launched as an independent and charitable organisation which now runs the county’s library service on behalf of Suffolk County Council.

Figures show how the service has developed since 2012. More people are attending events and borrowing titles online, rather than coming to the library just to choose and pick up books. There has been a recent surge in the number and diversity of library events and activities in Suffolk and the number of people attending them.

In 2018-19 there were 14,290 events and activities in libraries. These events saw attendances of nearly 201,000, an increase of over 14% from the previous year and 29% over the last four years. These activities range from regular activities for young children, social sessions for older people, live music, coding, Lego, knitting, singing, boxing, theatre performances and much more.

Bruce Leeke, chief executive of Suffolk Libraries, said: "The way people use libraries across the whole country is changing and we’ve been especially innovative in Suffolk in terms of the diversity of the events we offer. These figures show how much there is on offer at our libraries.

"Behind these numbers are hundreds of stories of how library activities impact people’s wellbeing, how they help children as they grow and learn, or how they help older people to make new connections."

We have kept all 44 libraries in Suffolk open as well as the mobile library service, which operates across the county. Two weekly Suffolk Libraries Local Sessions were also launched at Shotley Village Hall in April 2017 and at Ransomes Sports Pavilion in March 2018.

In the last seven years, new libraries have opened in Eye, Brandon and Debenham. Several libraries have changed their opening times to suit the needs of local people, with some even increasing their opening hours. We have also won two awards at the EDGE library conference and been a finalist in the national Libraries Change Lives Awards.

We were the first library service to transfer to an independent model and have often been highlighted as a case study of how services can be run successfully in the challenging financial climate.

We have also recently released our annual strategy and unveiled our plans for the first ever Suffolk Libraries Day. This celebration will offer the opportunity for people to support special fundraising events for the library service across the county. These celebrations will be taking place from 7-12 October and include a book journey across all 44 libraries.

Bruce Leeke added: "Our success story is down to the hard work of our staff and people in the community who continue to support us and champion our libraries. Suffolk Libraries Day will raise awareness that we are a charity and need to raise more income as we’re likely to face many challenges in the future."

Regular library user Samantha Street recently spoke out about her support for the library service: "I feel like we’re very lucky. With library closures elsewhere in the country, I do feel blessed that we still have our libraries and they’re not just ‘hanging in there,’ they are actually thriving."