In the article Defending libraries, Michael Rosen makes some interesting and powerful points including a refreshing perspective on schools and the library service. It’s sobering to think that this article is still relevant more than two years after publication.
A full list of the amount of money each branch is expected to raise can be found in the PDF document Routes to membership which is linked from a page on the IPS website, along with the statements that:
These ‘Letters to the Editor’ of the local newspapers (The East Anglian Daily Times and The Ipswich Star often carry similar content, it seems) are in response to Jennie Pink’s letter to the press which you can find on this blog on the entry dated 15 April 2013.
Ipswich Star 26/4/2013
Headline: “We’re proud to have kept all county’s libraries open”
Sir, -I want to reassure readers about the future of the county’s public libraries, as they may have read some confusing and misleading information about the service recently.
Suffolk Libraries is an independent and charitable organisation which took over the running of all the county’s libraries in August last year.
We have a 10-year contract with the county council and our priority is to maintain and improve what we know is a well-loved and vital community service.
Everyone involved in running and managing Suffolk Libraries is very passionate about libraries and we are proud that so far we have been able to keep all of the county’s libraries open, maintain opening hours and spending on new stoick and act to fill staffing gaps. Through creating a sensible structure and efficiency savings, we are delivering the service for much less than the original budget.
Of course all public services face challenging times and we do need to raise some additional money to support our libraries.
Therefore we need the support of the people of Suffolk – and this is already happening. Nearly a third of all our libraries now have their own community groups, which are made up of dedicated and enterprising local people who are supporting their library with consultation, events and fundraising activities.
We are always pleased to hear that people are supportive of their library and are happy to answer any concerns which people have. It’s easy to post a direct question via our website at http://www.suffolklibraries.co.uk
The best way of supporting your local library is to make sure you use them. If you’ve not been for a while, please drop in and find out about the services and activeities our 44 libraries provide.
Chair, Suffolk Libraries Board.
Ipswich Star 7/5/2013, page 8.
“Concerned for future of the library”
Sir, -With reference to Shona Bendix’s (Chair of Suffolk Libraries Board) assessment of the future of Suffolk Libraries (Your Letters, April 26).
Suffolk’s libraries are in [sic] no doubt in a less perilous position under the IPS arrangement. Library friends groups, of varying strengths, have popped up to defend and support their libraries.
Suffolk Libraries was set up on August 1st, 2012, with no reserves, to deliver the libraries service for Suffolk County. The contract includes specified opening hours for all Suffolk libraries. They also have to manage within their budget an overall “Community Contribution” of approximately £100,000 p.a. The public is perhaps not aware that to bridge this gap the IPS is seeking a [sic] “Community Contribution” funding from each library (or its friends group).
At a meeting in Bury St Edmunds on April 22, the IPS invited all libraries to join its ”club” but unveiled an individual contribution from each library to ensure services are mainained.
The average contribution is £3000 p.a. However there was no explanation at how figures have been arrived at, so as an example Westbourne Library must find £3,250 and County Library Ipswich £9,750.
What is also concerning is that only a third of Suffolk libraries have a friends group (13 out of 44 libraries) so it is unclear how they will find their contribution.
Some libraries have signed up, others such as Central library or the bigger town/villages may feel that there is enough local support or town council support to find this figure each year, but for a library such as ours serving an urban district of a large town it will prove enormously difficult to turn hard support into hard cash.
Our friends group has painted our library inside and out, and paid for the materials (est. £10,000 worth of work), and we have secured locality funding and third party funding to buy new furniture and a projector (£1,500).
But to raise £3,000 p.a. through public contributions/fundraising is a full time job. Quite simply, third party funders and the public will not contribute to our cause, or become paying members if they know it is to plug a gap in local government spending.
We are extremely concerned over the future of our library, and the fate of other libraries, and we are extremely uncomfortable with the unwelcome responsibility and task being forced upon us.
Chairman, Westbourne [Library] Friends
We note with interest that former library campaigner, Mandy Gaylard also Sandra Gage (in St Helen’s ward and Rushmere ward in Ipswich respectively) were elected to Suffolk County Council when results were announced yesterday. Councillor Judy Terry has been the chief drum-beater on behalf of the Tory majority for all that has beset the public library service in Suffolk since 2011. She drove forward the ‘Consultation’ document on libraries with its inherent threats to a number of branches including Rosehill; she and her fellow Tories completely ignored the strongly expressed views from the public coming out of that ‘Consultation’ that they wanted the libraries to be funded and run by the County Council, the legal Library Authority; she has been the person pushing the divestment of the service to an external IPS, at the same time securing a one-third cut in the budget with an additional £100,000 deficit, supposedly to be raised by local people to fill that gap in funding.
RUSHMERE Ward. Number of votes, followed by % of votes:
|ELLIS, Peter||UK Independence Party||401||16.96|
|JONES, Gareth||Liberal Democrat||90||3.81|
A reader of this blog writes: “I noticed in the Ipswich Star that the central library are charging people £3 to take part in their World Book Night event tonight (Tuesday 23 April 2013):
I think this is pretty shocking really. World Book Night is intended to be a free event, subsidized by publishers, to promote reading and the love of books. It seems to me quite wrong for the library to be using it as a fundraising opportunity.
Mentioning this to you because of your interest in monitoring the libraries’ activities under the new ownership setup. If this sort of thing is illustrative of their attitude then I think people should be made aware of how wrong it is.”
After a little hustling, we are pleased to have elicited the following policy statements on libraries from the three opposition parties in Suffolk County Council. Remember, the present dominant Tory council has:
- cut the funding to libraries by a third,
- privatised the service to a high-risk, untested (sorry, “imaginative”) Industrial & Provident Society,
- withheld a further £100,000 from the IPS, which is expected to be raised by “community groups” around the county.
The facts need to get out there to voters before they fill in their Postal Votes, or go to the ballot box on Thursday May 2, 2013.
Letter to the Editor (East Anglia Daily Times 15 April 2013):-
“Please back our libraries
Sir, – Suffolk County Council is paying an Independent and provident Society (IPS) to run our libraries but is asking local residents to raise money to cover the !100,000 shortfall announced for this year.
Some local councils have given quite large sums from their precept to help with deficit funding.
Some libraries are trying to for “Friends” groups to support them in fundraising etc.
At a campaign meeting last night (set up two years ago to try to safeguard the future of our libraries) members from various libraries reported on questions being asked of the IPS, ranging from where the money is held from donations, whether it will safeguard individual libraries and what will happen to those libraries who do not raise the required amount?
The responses have been inconsistent, variable and undelineated. Obtuse answers are unacceptable when the IPS are charged with delivering such a valued service. There should not be anomalies – transparency is needed.
There is no guarantee that the deficit funding will not be more challenging next year, so that, in the case of Saxmundham we may be asked to raise considerably more than the £2,000 required this year. SCC has reserves of more than £150 million. Core services matter – don’t squander taxpayers’ money on expensive social enterprise schemes with no history of success or adequate management skills.
If you believe in holding on to our precious libraries, please ask your local candidate to support this service, which means so much to so many.
JENNIE PINK, Saxmundham“
If you want to add to the discussion, please send a letter to the EADT editor now.