A libraries boss has admitted cutting spending on books is "the easiest" way to achieve savings, as wholesaler Bertrams reports its library sales have slumped by a quarter.
Results put out by parent Smiths News on Wednesday (13th April) revealed the wholesaler's year-on-year revenue declined by 3% to £73.5m in the last six months to 28th February 2011, with operating profits in line with the same period last year at £2.4m.
Smith News plc also saw revenue drop by 5.2% to £872.3m. It made £18.7m profit before tax, up 22.2% from 2010. Bertrams' international sales grew by 28% in the period, which helped arrest an overall decline.
Public sector spending cuts and the uncertainty over public library budgets were blamed for library sales falling by 25%, with signs "unclear" about whether this indicated a longer term trend.
While Bertrams estimated there will still be "substantial opportunities" to grow sales and market share for Bertram Library Services going forward, Ayub Khan, head of libraries in Warwickshire, warned cutting the book fund was "the easiest thing to do" when services are looking for savings.
He said: "It's not going to hit the headlines, and it's not immediately obvious. It's about two years down the line before it makes an impact. But it results in a slow death for library services as fewer people use the service."
In Warwickshire there is a consultation on the future of 16 libraries but the book fund has been protected, he added.