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Suffolk Libraries celebrates 44 members

Suffolk’s Libraries Industrial & Provident Society (Suffolk Libraries) is celebrating its second birthday with the news that it now has 44 members representing all of the county’s libraries.

Suffolk Libraries was set up two years ago on Friday (1 August) to run the county’s library services. The organisation runs with a budget of around £2.5million less than the service previously cost so has saved money whilst keeping all 44 libraries open.

Suffolk Libraries is a membership organisation and has been working to encourage local people to form community groups which are then formally adopted as part of the Society. The last two groups to join, Friends of Bury (St Edmunds) Library and The Friends of Great Cornard Community Library were formally adopted as members at a Suffolk Libraries Board meeting on Thursday 31 July.

Alison Wheeler, Suffolk Libraries General Manager, said:

We’re all delighted that all our library community groups are now members of The Society, helping to support and develop their local library and it’s a great way to mark our second birthday.

Working with library staff, the Community Groups have helped us to achieve some fantastic results; helping with fundraising activities, developing new ways of encouraging people to discover their library and helping us to improve what we offer our customers. For example, the Aldeburgh Library Foundation recently won Project of the Year at the Suffolk Adult Learners awards and the Friends of Thurston Library have helped us to pilot a project to lend eReader devices to people. There are many more examples and we welcome the Bury St Edmunds and Great Cornard groups.

Suffolk Libraries are actively working to develop and improve the library service with the support of the community and many library services in other parts of the country have sought our advice as they are faced with challenges that we faced a few years ago. We have achieved a great deal in a few short years thanks to the support of local people, our staff, board members and the many organisations we work with.

Suffolk Libraries is also one of three Suffolk-based organisations to be recognised by the Cabinet Office in the list of the first 100 ‘public service mutuals – organisations which have left the public sector but continue to deliver public services.’

The other Suffolk mutuals are Leading Lives, which provides a range of support to people with learning disabilities, and Realise Futures, a social enterprise providing a range of products and services from careers advice and training to retail, catering, horticulture and manufacturing.

The Cabinet Office recently celebrated the growth of these types of organisations and their role in the future of public services.

This week is also of particular relevance as Thursday 31 July marked the 50 year anniversary of the 1964 Public Libraries Act which made it a legal responsibility for local authorities to provide a public library service.