"IPS" takes over libraries in Suffolk

LogoPurpleBoxFrom 1 August the new Suffolk Libraries “IPS” (Industrial and Provident Society) will take over libraries in Suffolk having agreed a contract with Suffolk County Council. An event this evening in Bungay library will mark the signing of the contract and the beginning of the next phase in the history of Suffolk’s libraries.

When libraries re-open for business on 1 August they will effectively be unchanged. The staff will work for the IPS but everything else will be the same.

Cllr Judy Terry - who used to feature regularly on this Blog - commented:
Cllr Judy Terry
The future of all of Suffolk's libraries is secure. That is something I am immensely proud and pleased to be able to say.
We've seen councils elsewhere in the UK forced to close libraries or reduced opening hours in order to balance the books. The Suffolk model is the complete opposite.
By creating an IPS to take the service forward, we've found a way of saving money, opening up new funding opportunities and given community groups a real say in how the service is delivered. 
This week is a key milestone in our determined work to give Suffolk's library service a sound foundation for future growth.
I agree with Cllr Terry that the fact that Suffolk’s libraries are still open and pretty much the way they were a few years a go is something that I think we can all be proud of.

Whilst I do not want to take away from Cllr Terry credit to her Administration for enabling this, I would like the library campaigners who fought the initial closures and then have worked over the last year to make the IPS a success to share in this credit.

Shona Bendix the Chair of the IPS commented:
Shona Bendix
Suffolk's Libraries IPS has a very strong and very clear aim - to do what's best for the future of the service. This fundamental principle is what's driving all of us to do what we can to make sure our much-loved libraries are able to flourish and continue to be well-used for decades to come.
What has been quite clear in the last seven months is the unwavering dedication that so many people have to their local library and the service as a whole. It's exactly that commitment and enthusiasm that we want to harness for the good of the communities we will be serving.
This point has been a long time coming but I firmly believe that the IPS has found a way to take Suffolk's library service forward to bigger and better things.
There are hints in Shona’s quote that a lot of work has happened to get to this point which I know is true. It is nothing like as simple as some people imagine to create a brand new organisation to run something like the library service.

Volunteer board members have contributed hundreds of hours of unpaid work to ensure the success of the project and if the IPS does “save money” then this must in part be the reason why.

It is fitting that the event to mark the signing of the IPS contract with the County Council will take place today in the North Suffolk town of Bungay, a town that along with other North Suffolk places such as Stradbroke, Leiston and Lowestoft were at the heart of the campaigns to save libraries.

But the ongoing contribution of campaigners from elsewhere should not be forgotten either. The Ipswich based Rosehill Readers have taken a different view and decided to continue to campaign against the IPS. In May they met with the IPS to detail concerns they had about the process:
Rosehill Readers questioned the validity of the original plans that argued that outsourcing would save money . The claimed savings which were predicated on the charitable status of the IPS would in fact, because of government change of policy, be available to a local authority as well.  
I am pleased Rosehill Readers are around to keep the County Council and the IPS “on their toes”. I too am unsure if the IPS will really save any money.

That said I do think that the IPS can and hopefully will bring some benefits to Suffolk Libraries due to its independence from the County Council. This should enable them to move forward with the provision of services that might be more difficult as part of a large monolithic Council.

And over time l hope that local groups can also be part of improving the service. Freed up from having to run it by the existence of the IPS groups can work to add value and develop new services rather than just keeping what they already have going.

This is the next challenge for the IPS. Having agreed a contract with the County Council it now needs to establish a workable model for local groups. But today I think we can all stop for a bit and be pleased that our libraries are still here pretty much as they were and in today’s climate that in itself is something to be proud of!
suffolk libraries IPS 3846235219255930134

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