An independent charity that runs Suffolk’s Library service has reflected on its impact on community life over the past nine years and during the pandemic.

With Suffolk Libraries holding its ninth Annual General Meeting last Thursday, September 23, it provided the chance to look back on the launch as an independent charity in August 2012 and to look to the future.

Since those early days many exciting, innovative and impactful services have been launched.

All 44 libraries in Suffolk remain open with several now offering improved facilities and increased opening hours.

Lowestoft Journal: Lowestoft Library.Lowestoft Library. (Image: Mick Howes)

Before the pandemic, attendances at library activities had been increasing significantly every year and independent research has shown how visiting Suffolk’s libraries can make a big difference to people’s health and wellbeing.

Lowestoft Journal: Halesworth Library.Halesworth Library. (Image: Google Images)

Through befriending calls, online activities, laptop loans and its extensive eLibrary services, Suffolk Libraries was able to reach out to people during lockdown.

Lowestoft Journal: Kessingland LibraryKessingland Library (Image: Mick Howes)

After the relaxation of COVID regulations in July Suffolk Libraries launched ‘The Big Catch Up’ campaign to help bring people together and show how the library service can play a vital role in recovery after the pandemic.

Lowestoft Journal: Beccles Library, off Blyburgate.Beccles Library, off Blyburgate. (Image: Archant library)

Their presence at the heart of 44 Suffolk communities means libraries are ideally placed to work with local organisations such as the NHS and Suffolk County Council to provide support in areas such as job seeking, financial advice and social isolation.

Lowestoft Journal: Oulton Broad Library.Oulton Broad Library. (Image: Nick Butcher)

Bruce Leeke, chief executive of Suffolk Libraries, said: “I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved as we enter our tenth year.

"Life has never been more challenging for our service and the communities we support.

"But whatever the circumstances we always find new ways to help people across Suffolk.

Lowestoft Journal: Bungay Library.Bungay Library. (Image: Nick Butcher)

"The last year has turned the traditional idea of a library service on its head and allowed us to reach even more people than ever before in all sorts of different ways.

“In such a difficult year, our AGM is still a time for celebration and to look back at what we’ve achieved.

Lowestoft Journal: Southwold library.Southwold library. (Image: Nick Butcher)

"It’s also a time to thank our wonderful colleagues, volunteers, community groups and board members and of course Suffolk County Council and all the organisations and people who support what we do.”

The AGM was attended by around 40 people, who joined remotely or in person, and featured a number of speeches, a video presentation and video clips.