Suffolk Libraries appoints a new IT Manager…me!!

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Photo taken in the County Library in Ipswich
This week I started a new job as IT Manager for Suffolk Libraries. I will be working for the new Industrial and Provident Society (IPS) that took charge of Suffolk’s 44 libraries, mobile libraries and the schools and prison library services in August this year.

When nearly two years ago the Suffolk library consultation was launched and the campaign began I found myself one of the leading campaigners in a campaign that ended up with a petition with more than 35,000 signatures being presented to the County Council.

Since that time the threat of closures have thankfully lifted and a new chapter begun for Suffolk’s libraries with control of the service passing to the IPS. Suffolk County Council remain as the statutory library authority and fund the IPS.

They way libraries are now run in Suffolk may not be what everyone wanted but it has been my view for some time that the IPS offers the best future for Suffolk’s libraries. With a Board able to negotiate as good a deal as possible in funding and independance from some of the more annoying aspects of County Council control the IPS has an opportunity to make the most of the funding available.

My experience as a school governor has shown me the benefits that local autonomy can offer. The relationship with the council becomes more of working together and simply having a cheque book means schools can buy what they need without all the bureaucracy of a large organisation.

One area that can particularly benefit from this is IT. Public libraries offer access to computers and the Internet to many that might not have access elsewhere. The County Council’s IT service however is designed for an office environment needing much more security and with quite different requirements to a public service.

My job as IT Manager will include improving these services and making them more fit for purpose. So I will be looking to improve the services with more modern web browsers and the ability to use USB keys as well as back end IT systems for things like HR and Finance more suited to the smaller IPS than the large corporate systems a County Council needs.

Enhancements such as apps for mobile phones to search the catalogue and reserve books as well as wireless internet access are things that I will be looking into to see if they are viable.

There are many ways to support and improve a service including campaigning but now I feel I can best support the library service in a more practical way.

As an employee of the IPS clearly I will not be in a position to be one of those holding the service to account. I now become one of those accountable!

I am really looking forward to this new role. There is plenty to do and I am particularly looking forward to working with Suffolk Libraries staff. Some I know already and others I look forward to meeting over the next weeks and months.
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