Suffolk County Council to ask communities what they want from their libraries in the future
Suffolk County Council’s current contract with Suffolk Libraries, the independent charity that runs the library service, is due to end in July 2024 with a new contract set to come into effect from August 2024.
The council must therefore look to the future, ahead of offering the new contract.
At this formative stage the council is looking to gather a wide range of views from its diverse set of stakeholders to inform and shape the library offer of the future ahead of a formal consultation later this year.
As the custodians of the current service, engagement with Suffolk Libraries staff begins this week. During the year the council will also be seeking the views of service users, non-services users, and partners to help shape a future specification for libraries in Suffolk.
This process will inform the final decision on what the contract tender will contain. The council’s aims for the new provision are that:
- The library service will meet the needs of communities
- Suffolk County Council will continue to develop and improve the service offer
- Suffolk County Council will continue to invest in library buildings and resources
There is no confirmed budget for the future service at present, meaning that any and all options will be considered to shape the new specification. The final budget will be subject to the National Spending Review, of which more detail is expected to be known by the end of this year.
Cllr Bobby Bennett, Cabinet Member for Equality and Communities, said: “As we near the end of the current libraries contract, this provides an excellent opportunity to identify how existing services can be improved upon and to explore new ways of engaging with people, to best meet the needs of Suffolk residents, in order to shape the direction of a future library service.
“Suffolk County Council is committed to growing and improving library services. Libraries offer vital services to their communities, supporting emotional wellbeing, reducing social isolation, and providing access to resources which can help people to develop digital and educational skills.”
Bruce Leeke, Chief Executive of Suffolk Libraries, said: “Having successfully grown and developed the service over the past 10 years we are keen to support the council to understand what people across the county want from their libraries in the future.
“As an independent charity we have successfully created an offer that is constantly evolving to meet the needs of local people. We are the only library service in the country that has its own wellbeing service, were the first to be recognised by the Arts Council as doing culturally significant work and have recently been recognised for our role in supporting socially isolated people and communities.
“Because we are absolutely focused on working with communities to build a better future for Suffolk, we welcome the opportunity for people to tell the council what they want from the service in the coming years.”
Engagement with Suffolk Libraries staff begins this week and will run through to July this year. Public engagement will then follow, giving people the opportunity to have their say via a range of methods including face to face, online, telephone, social media and email. A webpage for the public engagement will be available once the conversations with staff have concluded.