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‘Smell is under-rated’: Libraries get whiff of the importance of aroma

PUBLISHED: 13:33 11 November 2018 | UPDATED: 16:21 13 November 2018

Suffolk Libraries chief executive Bruce Leeke. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Suffolk Libraries chief executive Bruce Leeke. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

ARCHANT EASTERN DAILY PRESS (01603) 772434

They say first impressions count for a lot.

Suffolk Libraries chief executive Bruce Leeke. Picture: SONYA DUNCANSuffolk Libraries chief executive Bruce Leeke. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

But now the leader of Suffolk’s library service says the county’s branches have not just got to kick up a stink about how they look and feel, but also how they smell.

Bruce Leeke, who took over as chief executive of Suffolk Libraries earlier this year, said his goal is to make all branches “really inspiring and uplifting places”.

However the organisation - which took over the running of libraries from Suffolk County Council six years ago and still receives the majority of its funding from the county council - does not boast a huge budget for renovations.

“I want all of our spaces to be inspiring and uplifting,” said Mr Leeke.

“Due to funding challenges, we can’t afford to reinvest money into creating uplifting and inspiring places everywhere.”

He said the organisation has a long-term ambition to renovate libraries eventually, particularly as the growing popularity of its events and activities mean a greater demand for open space.

However he said: “It’s not all about aesthetics.

“I’m interested in how our libraries smell.

“Smell is under-rated. One of the first things you use to rate your experience is the smell. There are very positive connotations with certain smells.

“It’s about people feeling that they want to be in there and stay in there.

“What we want is to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable.

“All organisations who engage with the public have to think about that.”

No work has yet been done to see what Suffolk libraries smell of and whether or not that it is putting visitors off the scent.

But Mr Leeke suspects, perhaps unsurprisingly, that most of its libraries smell of books.

While that might have its benefits, one might see that it also has a downside - particularly as Mr Leeke is keen to show people how libraries enrich people’s lives with events and activities and not just by reading.

“We’re finding that one of our main challenges is that people have very preconceived ideas about what is encompassed in a library,” said Mr Leeke.

“Books are a massive part of what we do but there are many other things.”

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