Children boost PLR library stats

The growing use of libraries by children and young readers has once again been emphasised by library data, with figures put out by the Public Lending Right (PLR) showing that children's books are being borrowed from libraries in greater numbers.

However, once again James Patterson has emerged as the most borrowed author. His 10th Anniversary (Century), co-written with Maxine Paetro, tops the most-borrowed chart in PLR's 30th anniversary year. The book notched up 65,944 loans to become the most borrowed title in a chart dominated by American crime writers.

The results echo figures previously given out by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (CIPFA), which show a decline in adult book borrowing, but an upturn in the number of children's books borrowed. They are also in line with Nielsen BookScan's library data LibScan, which showed children's performing strongly.

The PLR numbers are based on a sample of UK book loans, and cover the period from July 2011 to June 2012. They show that of the 10 most borrowed authors six were children's authors, with children's books now making up 37.4% of all loans, up from 35.9% last year. In 2012, 30 of the top 100 LibScan titles were children's books, compared to 24 in 2011, while 42% of the top 5,000 most borrowed books were children’s titles, compared to 39% in 2011.

The numbers also confirm the public's continuing affection for crime and thriller titles. PLR's top 10 for 2010-11 was made up entirely of such titles, while in 2011-12, only Julia Donaldson's The Gruffalo, Maeve Binchy's Minding Frankie and The Help by Kathryn Stockett broke the crime stranglehold. Patterson had more than two million loans in 2011-12, retaining his place as the most borrowed author, a position he has held for six years, racking up more than 16.4 million loans in the past decade.

The top non-fiction book for a second year was At Home by Bill Bryson (Black Swan), with 23,498 loans, down from 35,748. The top "classic authors" remain the same with Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie leading the way. 

PLR registrar Jim Parker said that midlist authors benefited the most from PLR. He said: "For successful authors, the money that comes from PLR is the icing on the cake. But for lots of authors, PLR is a vital income stream. We're very proud of the fact that we’ve been going for 30 years and have helped so many authors in that time." In its 30 years, PLR has made payments of more than £138m to 50,000 authors. In 2013, PLR will pay £6.4m to over 23,000 authors, at a rate of 6.2p per loan.

Libraries outside of statutory control, which includes many volunteer-run libraries, do not pay PLR, while there is no PLR paid for e-book loans either. Parker said: "We are watching what happens with community libraries and e-books. At the moment, both are on a fairly small scale, so the impact is not large. But if they expand, we will look to see that authors get their fair share."

Review of the Year: LibScan