New analysis shows extent of England's library book spend drop

New analysis shows extent of England's library book spend drop

Book spend for libraries in England has fallen by £35m since 2005, while book lending to adults and children has declined by 36.5% and 21% respectively in the last five years, new analysis from library campaigner and former Watersones' m.d. Tim Coates has revealed.

Coates' analysis of a data report from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy - which was released last week - has shown that the purchasing of print books for libraries in England has fallen from £80m in 2005 to £45m last year. The figures also revealed that lending to children and adults has also decreased, with children’s books declining 21% from 94.6m loans to 78.6m loans in the last five years. Library book lending to adults has fallen 36.5% in the last five years - from 200m loans to 127m loans. According to the data, electronic items took 18.2% of the book fund and produced 1.3% of book loans.

Coates told The Bookseller that the figures show that libraries need to be restocked with "relevant and up-to-date book collections".

"There has to be an initiative so that what children find reflects the wondrous writing of the last 25 years", Coates said. "If we don't do these things urgently this year the whole service will soon end in sad misery."

He added: "It's hard to find a council in England in which the councillors understand that the role of libraries is to provide books for people to enjoy, use and read. What hope can we have for a future library service?”

Coates also criticised the department for culture, media and sport and the Libraries Taskforce for not "properly analysing the figures for the service". 

Last week, The Bookseller reported that the number of libraries in Great Britain fell by 1.7% in 12 months to 3,850 in the year to April 2016. The fresh figures mean a total of 478 libraries have closed across England, Scotland and Wales since 2010.

Laura Swaffield, chair of The Library Campaign, added that the results of Coates analysis are "not very surprising", as the libraries earmarked for closure are "always the small branches that are easiest for children and young families to get to", and this explains the decline in lending.

"The rest [of libraries that have remained open] have seen cuts in stock, huge cuts in professional staff and cuts in opening hours, via a massive budget cut of £25m in the past year alone", she said. "Then there's hundreds dumped on to volunteers, where performance tends to plummet."

She added: "All this comes on top of salami-slicing year after year for decades past. Plus the failure of DCMS and the Taskforce to get to grips with long-standing problems like the fragmentation of the service over 151 authorities in England alone, or library services headed by managers who don't know anything about libraries. We've warned for years that libraries are in crisis. Perhaps we'll be believed at last."

Following the original CIPFA release, a DCMS spokesperson said: “Libraries are hugely important community assets and we are absolutely committed to helping them flourish and prosper in the 21st century. That is why the Libraries Taskforce has published a strategy for the service in England to ensure they are more resilient and better utilised by local authorities.”

Earlier this week, Swindon Council finalised plans to close 10 out of 15 of the town's libraries despite heavy criticism from campaigners, the town's headteachers, CILIP and shadow culture minister Kevin Brennan.