Suffolk Village of the Year 2023

Friends of Lavenham Library

In the July edition of Green links there was an article about the Library Services in Suffolk. Many Cockfield residents do use the Lavenham Library and the Mobile Library service which are both part of the new Suffolk Libraries IPS supported by the Suffolk County Council. Membership is drawn from community groups which are made up of people who want to support their library and have a say in how they are run. A “Friends of the Lavenham Library” is such a community group which has recently been formed.

Here is more information about the Group and the Suffolk Libraries IPS.

What is Suffolk Libraries IPS?

IPS stands for Industrial & Provident Society. A not for profit, independent and charitable organisation which has a board with members elected from the Groups

Who are the members?
The members are the different library Friends groups from around the county. Eventually it is hoped that each library will have its own friends group which will be a voting member of the IPS.

Does this mean the Lavenham Friends group has a representative on the board?

Not yet. At the moment all the board members are appointed, but there will be elections in September when the various friends groups can put forward candidates for the IPS board. There are only 12 seats on the board and 44 libraries so obviously not every group can be represented but it’s hoped that the board will represent the various types of libraries in the county. Each Friends groups can vote for the members.

Does every library have a Friends group?

Not yet over half the libraries do and many more are in the pipeline

What do you mean by “support the library?

When the libraries were run directly by the county council, local communities couldn’t really suggest ways to improve their library or offer practical help. Now things are very different. If, for example a local group wants to redecorate their library or buy additional equipment they will be able to do so. They will also be encouraged to suggest ways that the library can better meet the needs of the local community. We will be asking for people’s suggestions and opinions.

So anything goes

Afraid not. The library service is governed by legislation which means that some things such as charging fee to join or to borrow books are not allowed. Suffolk County Council has also signed a contract with the IPS outlining a certain standard of service. This is to protect the users and to ensure that the libraries do not drift away from their core services and values. The Friends groups also must have a constitution that ensures they do not undermine the library or discriminate against any users.

So does support really just mean fundraising?

That’s part of it. The IPS is funded by a grant from Suffolk County Council which is enough for the current basic service .Money is still very tight in the public sector and in the future the IPS may need to ask Friends group for a contribution towards the running costs of their library. Already Groups have been assisting with the cost of the provision for new Wi Fi systems being installed in the libraries.

So do the Friends run the library?

No .The library is run by its manager for the IPS which employs all the staff. The final decision on any changes lies with the IPS but it will always be working with the Friends groups.

Does the Friends group provide volunteer staff for the library?

No. Its not the role of the Friends to replace or undermine paid staff. Suffolk libraries has used volunteers for many years to supplement paid staff, e.g. in the At Home Library Service which delivers books to the house bound. New activities initiated by the Friends may use volunteer unless the Friends choose to raise money to pay for additional staff to run them.

Can I Join the Friends group?

We’d love you to – the more the merrier. You do not have to live in Lavenham (there is already Cockfield Trustee representation), you just need to agree with our aims and want to support your library. Ask at the desk if you would like to join.

Where can I get additional information?

The Suffolk libraries website   has information about the IPS or you can ask the Lavenham Library manager Debbie Roots.

We will be holding a social meeting for all interested parties on Wednesday 31st July at Lavenham Village Hall at 7.30pm. All are welcome.

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