Location, Date & Time: Lakenheath Library, 28th May 2012 at 7pm
Attendees: Cllr Colin Noble (Forest Heath District Council and Suffolk County Council), Chris Howard (Lakenheath Library Manager), Cllr Iain Frost (Lakenheath Parish Council), Ann Cross , Alison Wheeler (General Manager, Suffolk Libraries IPS), Helen Haynes (Northern Area Manager, Suffolk Libraries IPS), Cllr Sylvia Knight (Bungay Town Council, Suffolk Libraries IPS Board) , Alison Donald (Business Development Team, Suffolk County Council), Charlotte Clarke (Southwold Library Manager) and Sheila Smith.
Apologies for Absence: Bill Rockett, Madeleine Rockett and Marilyn Shone.
1) Minutes from a previous Meeting
The minutes of the last meeting were agreed as published on the FOLK Blog.
2) Industrial and Provident Society
As Cllr Sylvia Knight is an IPS Interim board member she gave the meeting the following update:
2a) The IPS Interim board set up in Jan/Feb 12 and Cllr Sylvia Knight noted that for all the IPS members and staff, it has been a huge learning curve.
2b) The IPS is a form of cooperative consisting of community groups and interested parties working together to provide a sustainable library service throughout Suffolk. It is independent of the county council and as such, it is hoped that transferring the library service to such an arrangement will reduce the levels of bureaucracy that were in place within the council run system. As the IPS board is made up of library user groups who are committed to the continued provision of a library service, it will have the flexibility to try different things and will be better able to take calculated risks than being risk averse.
The IPS board will be responsible for making directional decisions on the provision of library services and the staff (Alison Wheeler’s team) will be in between the board and libraries as a one-stop-shop to assist community groups in setting up in the best arrangement to suit both the board and local community needs.
2d) Groups can have a much or as little involvement as they choose and sustain with the IPS assistance. The IPS will also help local groups become members of the IPS and contribute to the election of the full board.
2e) The interim board is currently looking at the structure of the library service as well as drafting the contract with the council for the continued provision of library services. Cllr Sylvia Knight is aware that this was taking some time and there had been little communication with library staff and groups because the IPS want to make sure that they get both the structure and contract right first time. All agreed that the lack of communication had not been ideal and Alison Wheeler reported that work is underway to correct that with processes being put in place for regular contact with the community groups through the library manager.
2f) As yet library users will not have noticed any difference in the library service, stock levels will remain in place as will the ability to obtain books from other Suffolk libraries. Talks are underway with Cambridgeshire County Council to extend the ability to obtain books from their libraries too.
2g) Work is also underway to identify the situations at different libraries. Alison Wheeler reported that a planning forum involving all front line managers has been arranged for the 11th June 2012 (to which Helen Haynes and Chris Howard have been invited). This meeting will capture the large diversity in governance across the library system and identify what works and what does not.
2h) Cllr Sylvia Knight reported that both the structure and the contract will be in place by the time library staff transfer to the IPS which has been agreed as the 1st of August 2012.
2i) The various library groups at different stages of set up, some communities are not interested in continuing with a library whilst others such as Bungay are fairly organised with a cross community representation. Although it may feel that FOLK is not far along the process, it is further ahead than others.
2j) Of the groups in place most want the main library staff to remain, very few groups are considering taking over the employment of the library staff directly as this is a very large responsibility. Equally very few libraries are likely to be run on a wholly voluntary basis.
3) Lakenheath Library
3a) Chris Howard reported that there are new people becoming library card holders every day. Users will not have seen any difference in library support provided to date but this may change as the requirement to reduce costs is still necessary. It is this goal as well as increasing library usage and community involvement that community groups need to be focusing on to ensure the library continues.
Chris Howard will identify the number of library card users on the date of the transfer to IPS and this would be used as a baseline figure. Ongoing.
3b) Chris Howard reported that the local press had been in contact reporting that they had reviewed the FOLK blog and would like to attend the meeting. However, it was agreed that whilst the IPS and the FOLK are still in their infancy with much to do, there would not be enough time to dedicate to the media at present. However, the interest shown was much appreciated and the FOLK will be in touch with the local press soon.
4a) The IPS as a whole will have charitable status and is currently identifying whether each group is required to be their own legal entity or if they can fall under the IPS’ umbrella.
4b) Cllr Sylvia Knight reported that the IPS has an agreement that the costs of setting up as a legal entity will be met by Suffolk County Council.
4c) As a pilot, Bungay has set themselves up as Company Limited Guarantee with charitable status but this is not suitable for all libraries.
4d) The IPS is currently looking at the local governance of charitable status and will provide guidance and information on terms, conditions and articles when they are agreed.
4e) Potential fundraising ideas include:
i) Volunteers taking over provision of soft maintenance
ii) Provide additional services for a cost
iv) Book Fair
5) FOLK newsletter
4k) Parish Council provision (noted that there is the perception that should the precept be raised to provide money for the library, village residents would be paying for the same service twice).
6) Way Ahead
6a) A planning forum involving all front line managers has been arranged for the 11th June 2012 (to which Helen Haynes and Chris Howard have been invited).
6b) IPS and Alison Wheeler’s team to meet with all Pilot library groups.
6c) Facilitation of a group learning exchange, groups learning from the experience of other groups.
6d) Compilation of a website providing guidance for groups accessible through the Suffolk Library website.
6e) Talks are underway with Cambridgeshire County Council to extend the ability to obtain books from their libraries too.
6f) The first IPS AGM is scheduled for the 13th of August 2012 when it is hoped that as many library groups like FOLK are on board.
7) Date of Next Meeting
Cllr Iain Frost to send a ‘round robin’ to all committee members to identify a mutually agreeable date for an informal meeting.