Archive | May, 2013

Michael Rosen defends libraries

18 May

In My View column by Michael Rosen, February 2011

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.


Begging bowl libraries

18 May
People interested in the library service in Suffolk will no doubt be aware of recent ‘Letters to the editor’ from Jennie Pink, a very general defensive response from Shona Bendix, Chair of the IPS Board and a counter-blast from Gareth Jones, Chair of the Friends of Westbourne Library (these three have appeared on this blog). There followed a quite detailed and specific response to the Jones letter from Sue Gleave, Support Services Manager at Suffolk Libraries Industrial & Provident Society. It would seem that Sue Gleave, has deemed it proper to respond exclusively and in some detail to Gareth Jones’ Letter to the Editor (EADT/Ipswich Star) on an Ipswich ‘political gossip, comment and intrigue’ blog. We can’t find any other source of these statements from the outsourced organisation running our libraries. If true, it is surprising that the IPS sees this as a professional way of working; one wonders if local journalists are aware of this by-passing of the customary local media.
The substance of the remarks is also of interest; Sue Gleave states that:
‘We have to manage within the budget that has been set; this includes an overall Community Contribution of £130k for the period 1/8/2012 to 31/3/2014. It is therefore essential, if we are to manage within our allocated budget, that we receive the Community Contribution funding, or we will have to make savings from somewhere in our budget. It would seem equitable that if a library does not provide the contribution requested, where other libraries have, that savings are found from funds allocated to projects to enhance the services locally. This would mean that some planned additions to the core service, such as Wi-Fi, may not be available to libraries that do not deliver their allocated contributions.’
This statement of potential penalties for those branches not achieving their ‘Community Contribution’ couldn’t be clearer and even quotes the example of missing out on the installation of Wi-Fi broadband. The danger of creating a layer of second-class branches in Suffolk is the logical outcome.
There is an additional ‘reassuring’ comment from someone at the IPS at the end of the blog entry which suggests a damage-limitation measure.
One commenter to the blog entry quoted says:
‘Libraries should never have been outsourced; the IPS was simply the County Council’s way of a) pretending to save all the libraries and b) trying to guard against a possible loss of Conservative seats in the elections we have just had.
The £130,000 sought from the community has been spent many times over in this ridiculous re-organization. The whole library service across Suffolk has been compromised and not a penny has been saved. All that has happened is that closures have been cleverly postponed by this smoke and mirrors “solution”.’

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:

‘… the Community Contribution was a concept adopted by Suffolk County Council as an integral part of the funding of the contract with Suffolk Libraries.’ And to Friends groups who are considering signing up: ‘You will use your best efforts to fulfil any Community Contribution set by Suffolk Libraries.’ This by: ‘fundraising, obtaining sponsorship and donations’. Pete Rowberry commenting on this blog says: “I endorse the view that the library service is deteriorating since the inception of the Libraries Charity. Money is being requested for services which were at one time free and a box for donations is now a permanent feature on the Library desk.”
N.B. A look at the thirteen ‘friends groups’ who have joined the Industrial & Provident Society so far reveals that it includes three town councils (Leiston-cum-Sizewell Town Council, Needham Market Town Council, Sudbury Town Council).

Local press coverage: is all well?

7 May

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

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.

Gareth Jones,

Chairman, Westbourne [Library] Friends

SCC Elections 2.5.2013

4 May


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:

GAGE, Sandra Labour 1117 47.25
TERRY, Judy Conservative 628 26.57
ELLIS, Peter UK Independence Party 401 16.96
WILMOT, Kirsty Green 94 3.98
JONES, Gareth Liberal Democrat 90 3.81
JACKSON, Dale Independent 34 1.44
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