Halesworth Library support group looks to bolster numbers following cuts proposal news

Trustees of the Friends of Halesworth County Library pictured last year. Mike Stephens, David Olds,

Trustees of the Friends of Halesworth County Library pictured last year. Mike Stephens, David Olds, Natalie Meg Evans, Sheila Freeman, Alan Holzer, Alison Britton, Ali Hopkins.

A library support group is hoping to strengthen membership following news of proposed budget cuts to the county-wide service.

The Friends of Halesworth County Library (FOHCL) formed at the end of 2012, when day-to-day running of 44 libraries was handed to independent provident society, Suffolk Libraries.

With the authority remaining the main source of funding, budgets have since been cut by almost a third – and Suffolk Libraries could face a further £230,000 reduction in 2017/18.

FOHCL trustee and treasurer Mike Stephens said: 'When the group started – as Suffolk County Council was contracting out services to Suffolk Libraries – it generated a lot of interest, amid concerns that libraries may close.

'A tremendous amount of people wanted to give a small cash contribution or become a member for a period of three years.

'About 18 months ago, we realised we'd have to contact everyone about renewing their membership. Realising the administration would be onerous, we decided to launch life-membership. Following recent proposed budget cuts, we wanted to encourage people to help us grow a stronger group of friends – to have more people on board, should cuts be on the table.'

Since forming, FOHCL has raised funds for improvements including carpets, redecoration, iPads and headsets for computers.

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It also runs events like tabletop sales and game afternoons.

Mr Stephens said: 'We have upwards of 30 volunteers working directly with the library manager. Meanwhile, our fundraising provides Suffolk Libraries with services it no longer has money to provide.

'Use of libraries has changed, and we have moved with the times to get the most from the building.

'With new friends on board, we can use their skills to keep our focus on the library being there.

'By membership numbers, we became one of the most successful library friends groups in the county – but over three years, members have come and gone.'

Under proposals, the county library budget would fall to £5.91m – but bosses have committed to not closing any libraries, or reducing opening hours. The budget will be settled at the end of February.

For more on FOHCL, email friendsofhalesworthlibrary@gmail.com or call 01986 875095.

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