Chair appointed to lead exciting future for Devon’s libraries

Posted on: 9 July 2015

Experienced local leader Julie Dent has been appointed to chair the new independent organisation being set up to run the county’s library service.

Work is underway to establish a staff and community owned ‘mutual’ which would be commissioned by the County Council to run libraries on their behalf from April 2016.

In partnership with the county council, library staff, communities and eventually the new organisation’s board, Julie will play a leading role in the future of the service.

Julie, who has considerable experience leading a number of organisations across the South West and London, will take on the new role immediately in order to support this important development phase, and help put in place some of the critical building blocks needed to establish and shape the new organisation as a solid base for the future of Devon’s libraries.

Julie DentSpeaking about the challenges ahead, she said:

“I am delighted to be taking on this role at such an important time.

“Having used libraries since I was a small child, I can honestly say that they were the bedrock for my personal and academic life.

“I enjoy reading, and belong to a reading group. We use the Tiverton Library regularly.

“I am really excited about the opportunity that the mutual structure will provide for true community ownership of such a wonderful resource.

“Over the coming weeks I am looking forward to visiting libraries across Devon and meeting both staff and users of the service.”

Former Chief Executive of South West London Strategic Health Authority, Julie was awarded the CBE in 2005, after the London bombings, for services to the NHS.

She left the NHS in March 2007 after 22 years to take up a new portfolio career including chairing the London Probation Board from April 2007 to March 2012.

Julie has plenty of experience leading and managing change having chaired Torbay NHS Care Trust from December 2009 until February 2013, and most recently becoming Chair of Devon Partnership NHS Trust in March 2013.

She has also established her own business, designing and developing training and leadership programmes for chief executives and directors in the NHS and the Third Sector, so will be able to share her entrepreneurial experience as the new mutual organisation develops.

Julie, who retired to Devon seven years ago and lives in Tiverton with her husband, also has an impressive volunteering record. She was a trustee of the School Food Trust and the Children’s Food Trust, and chaired ‘User Voice’, a ground- breaking charity for offenders, until August 2014.

A keen reader and gardener, Julie has two children and three grandchildren who live nearby. She grows her own vegetables, enjoys cooking and lots of reading!

Cllr Roger CroadCouncillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for the library service, said:

“I am very pleased to have Julie on board, and that she will start working with us straight away.

“She is passionate about enabling life long learning for all and the changing face of public libraries, and will be the independent voice we need during this critical stage in the process.

“Her considerable experience means she has the wide range of skills need to lead this new organisation, and I have no doubt she will prove to be an invaluable asset as we move into this exciting new chapter for Devon’s libraries.”

Gillian WrightGillian Wright, Chair of the Friends of Kingskerswell Library Group, was part of the interview panel. She said:

“I was delighted to be involved in the appointment process for the Chair of the new organisation. Having a representative of the community involved in the recruitment process shows how committed the county council is to working closely with communities and friends groups in order to make a real difference to the development of the service.

“Julie was a very impressive candidate, not only does she have lots of experience as a Chair, she also has a great enthusiasm for libraries and a  vision for the future of Devon’s libraries.  She will no doubt provide excellent leadership and guidance for the organisation.”

It is anticipated that further board members will be recruited in the autumn. Details to be announced in due course.

You can keep up to date with all the latest information about the project by visiting the Future Libraries website.

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