Eye and Stradbroke libraries under threat

COMMUNITIES in north Suffolk have pledged to fight to save their local libraries as a result of council cutbacks, which could hit facilities in Eye and Stradbroke.

A consultation exercise was launched this week by Suffolk County Council to get community groups and parish councils to take on the running of 29 of the 44 libraries run by the local authority.

The proposals come as the county council looks to shave more than a quarter of its �9m library budget over the next three years as part of cost saving measures.

The news means that library facilities in Eye and Stradbroke could close permanently if no one comes forward to take them on.

But Ann Kerr, chairman of Stradbroke Parish Council, said the council had already been approached by Suffolk County Council with a view to taking on the management of the facility in Queen Street.

'We have got some discussions underway and they are at an early stage, but no formal agreement has been made yet. We hope it can happen, we certainly do not want to lose it.'

'In Stradbroke, we really value our library because it is well used and it is in the centre of the village. It is the one place where people can come for free that is warm and welcoming and more importantly access information that people need in their day to day lives.'

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She added that it was the 'million dollar question' whether the service would be better run by the community.

'It all comes down to how much the county council will support us financially. They will continue supplying books and an IT system because they are still running a library service in other areas. Staffing will be the big issue,' she said.

Jo-Ann Saunders, Eye Town Council clerk, said the council had been warned to expect an announcement on the library, but the information had not come in time to be discussed at Wednesday's town council meeting.

Judy Terry, county councillor responsible for libraries, said: 'We have an excellent library service in Suffolk. Despite the cutbacks we are facing, I want it to stay that way.'

'For that to happen, we need to look for new ways of delivering the service. I would urge people who are passionate about their library to use this opportunity to come forward and give us their ideas about how we can fund a more efficient service with the reduced resources that we have available.'

The council is hoping community groups will come forward to take over the libraries before the consultation closes at the end of April. People can have their say by completing the questionnaire at www.suffolk.gov.uk/librariesconsultation2011 or request one request at any of Suffolk's 44 libraries or six mobile libraries.