Board members sought for library enterprise

Clive Fox chairman of Suffolk Libraries ISP
Clive Fox chairman of Suffolk Libraries ISP
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THE social enterprise that will run Suffolk’s libraries will help communities set up local groups to run their branches, its first chairman has promised.

The Suffolk Libraries Industrial Provident Society (IPS) began work on Tuesday with chairman Clive Fox and board members Mike Hosking and Shona Bendix bringing years of experience in libraries, the cultural sector and building and managing public service partnerships to what is believed to be a unique way of running libraries.

Letters went out this week to the county’s 44 libraries plus local groups who had expressed an interest in running them inviting nominations for the four other interim board positions, by January 22.

Mr Fox said the first 18 months were the ‘development phase’. He added: “We’re going to have to put a lot of effort into working with local communities to get the to a situation where they can become members of the IPS, and they will all need help.

“I’m sure we’ll find some people who are full of enthusiasm and others that haven’t thought about it yet so aren’t able to agree to commitments. At the end of the day, there won’t be one way of doing this locally.”

County councillor in charge of library reform Judy Terry said this had been shown in the seven pilots the county had run with 14 libraries, where some ran independently and other as groups of neighbouring libraries.

She stressed this was not the county washing its hands of libraries. She said: “We do retain all our statutory responsibilities.”

The county will continue to run a Suffolk-wide network so people will still be able to reserve books not held at their local library. Books will also be bought centrally.

Mr Fox said: “What we’re talking about here is a partnership arrangement between the county council and local library groups.”

The IPS will be registered and appoint its interim board this month then, between February and May will apply for admission to the Local Government Pension Scheme and consult on and transfer employment responsibilities from the county.