Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 16°C

min temp: 11°C

Search

Suffolk: Book borrowing declines but county’s libraries start a new chapter

11:44 22 March 2014

Book borrowing at Suffolk's libraries is dwindling but e-book borrowing is rapidly increasing

Book borrowing at Suffolk's libraries is dwindling but e-book borrowing is rapidly increasing

Archant

Book borrowing from Suffolk’s libraries has fallen by the equivalent of almost 2,000 a day over the past two years, the EADT can disclose.

Thurston Library:

Richard Fawcett, chairman of the Friends of Thurston Library, explained he enjoyed giving back to the community.

“The library is part of the community which provides a wider concept of learning other than books and computers,” he said. “It is a welcoming place in which people feel comfortable, but has changed from a completely book-use only service. I think we were the first library to have free Wi-fi and e-readers have an extended role with computers.

“But it is a very positive story in terms of libraries in Suffolk. It is certainly the case they play a much bigger role in communities, which is very welcome following the possible picture of library closures.”

But library bosses have united in defence of the “important community hubs”, arguing they play an increasingly vital role in rural areas and provide a positive social and learning experience for families, students and older people.

They insisted Suffolk’s libraries are not under threat, but urged people not to take them for granted.

The backing comes after new findings showed the number of books borrowed from libraries in the county has fallen by around 350,000 in each of the last two years. It dropped from 3,925,216 in 2010/11 to 3,236,652 in 2012/13.

It means that around 10,800 books were loaned out every day in Suffolk three years ago, compared to 8,900 last year – some 1,900 fewer. Average daily visits also fell, from around 9,870 three years ago to 9,250 last year.

The latest research, seen by the EADT, also showed the number of people borrowing books slumped by 22% in the same two-year period, from 127,409 to 99,188.

But Alison Wheeler, general manager of Suffolk Libraries, said that although libraries have had to change a “great deal” in recent years to offer a greater range of services and activities, they are in a “genuinely strong position” than when all 44 of the county’s libraries were transferred from Suffolk County Council control in August 2012.

Suffolk’s libraries are now part of an Industrial and Provident Society, a not-for-profit, independent and charitable organisation set up in August 2012 to run the service.

The deal, the first of its kind in the country, saved 29 branches threatened by proposed cuts. Mrs Wheeler insisted there were no immediate plans to close any branches or cut staff. She insisted the service and opening times of libraries have not been cut despite facing a squeezed budget of £2million less than two years ago.

She explained that while traditional library use is changing, the focus must be placed on the opportunities rather than “doom and gloom”.

She said: “The modern library service is much more than the borrowing of physical books; it’s about older people meeting up together, families learning together, social networking, people using facilities to find employment and study. It has changed a lot from 20, and even 10, years ago.

“We have 44 support groups after winning the battle to keep our libraries. But we must not be complacent. Libraries have got to raise their profile in the community, and we are reaching out even more than before. They cannot be taken for granted.

“We have a huge army of volunteers. They have not replaced paid staff; they augment the service. They are the beating heart of the library experience.”

And while she admitted the target for the number of physical books being loaned is to never dip below the three million mark, she argued there are many more varied measures to gauge the general health of libraries.

She said their “stable situation” is being strengthened with an increasing range of services and activities, with the service being run as “efficiently as possible”.

“We are just as committed to the physical book, and although there could be a wider selection and fewer copies, we have to think about the future.”

1 comment

  • i hope those channels the bookshelfs are standing on are fixed to the bookshelfs.

    Report this comment

    TERENCE MANNING

    Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Martlesham man is angry after a booked trip on a steam train up Snowdon was cancelled due to an obese family taking up all the room in his carriage.

A 170-tonne electricity transformer the size of a bungalow is being transported along the A12 in Suffolk on Saturday.

Chinese backers yesterday signed important financial agreements connected to the construction of Suffolk’s yet-to-be-approved Sizewell C nuclear power station.

A 15-year-old girl missing from Ipswich has been found, according to Suffolk police officers.

A 32-year-old autistic woman from Ipswich has hosted a Macmillan coffee morning in memory of her mother, who died of cancer two years ago.

And depending how significant the prize, or the emotional attachment to it, their fates can range from living out their days in a dusty draw to taking pride of place on your (or your parent’s) mantelpiece.

Police are appealing for witnesses and information after a nine-year-old girl reported being approached by two men on bicycles in Ipswich.

Police stopped a driver on the A14 this afternoon near Needham Market who was going at 107mph.

Members of a Suffolk-based fitness team have raised more than £7,000 for Ipswich Hospital’s neonatal and paediatric wards after completing the Three Peaks Challenge in just 22 hours.

Opened up in 1938, Broomhill Pool was, for decades, one of the most popular attractions in Ipswich.

Most read

Most commented

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Topic pages

Streetlife

Newsletter Sign Up

MyDate24 MyPhotos24