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Suffolk Libraries marks nine years of making a difference

Suffolk Libraries held its ninth Annual General Meeting this week, reflecting on its impact on community life over the past nine years and during the pandemic.

Suffolk Libraries was launched in August 2012 as an independent charity to run Suffolk’s Library service.

Since those early days many exciting, innovative and impactful services have been launched. All 44 libraries remain open with several now offering improved facilities and increased opening hours.

Before the pandemic, attendances at library activities had been increasing significantly every year and independent research has shown how visiting Suffolk’s libraries can make a big difference to people’s health and wellbeing.

Through befriending calls, online activities, laptop loans and its extensive eLibrary services, Suffolk Libraries was able to reach out to people during lockdown.

After the relaxation of COVID regulations in July Suffolk Libraries launched ‘The Big Catch Up’ campaign to help bring people together and show how the library service can play a vital role in recovery after the pandemic. Their presence at the heart of 44 Suffolk communities means libraries are ideally placed to work with local organisations such as the NHS and Suffolk County Council to provide support in areas such as job seeking, financial advice and social isolation.

Bruce Leeke, Chief Executive of Suffolk Libraries, said:

“I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved as we enter our tenth year. Life has never been more challenging for our service and the communities we support. But whatever the circumstances we always find new ways to help people across Suffolk. The last year has turned the traditional idea of a library service on its head and allowed us to reach even more people than ever before in all sorts of different ways.

“In such a difficult year, our AGM is still a time for celebration and to look back at what we’ve achieved. It’s also a time to thank our wonderful colleagues, volunteers, community groups and board members and of course Suffolk County Council and all the organisations and people who support what we do.”

The AGM was attended by around 40 people, who joined remotely or in person. In addition to speeches by Suffolk Libraries Chair Tony Brown and Bruce Leeke, David Akinsanya, Equalities Lead at Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System gave a talk on ‘Working Together to Reduce Health Inequalities’.

A video presentation was shared at the AGM which showcases Suffolk Libraries’ highlights and achievements over the past year.

Video clips were also shown sharing the thoughts of Richard Fawcett, Chair of the Friends of Thurston Library who has been involved in Suffolk Libraries since 2012, and Emma Fakes, a former library volunteer who has spoken about the positive impact the library has had on her life.