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 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.

SHONA BENDIX,

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

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2 Responses to “Local press coverage: is all well?”

  1. Pete Rowberry May 8, 2013 at 11:16 am #

    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. The experience of museums is that people stopped going into them when charges were raised, even if those charges were entirely voluntary, reductions in footfall of 50% being common. Once charges were lifted visitor numbers increased. Unfortunately, the truth about charitable giving is that, as a percentage of disposable income, the rich give far less than the less well off to charities, both volunteer time and effort. Libraries are part of a wider education service and should be free and paid for from general taxation.

    • Rosehill Readers May 18, 2013 at 11:38 am #

      Dear Pete,
      Sorry if we didn’t reply to your relevant comment earlier. We have taken an extract from your comment for our recent blog entry ‘Begging bowl libraries’.
      Best,
      -Rosehill Readers

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