Library association CILIP says the library service needs up to £250m investment and has called for action from Boris Johnson’s government to secure its own future.
Recent figures released by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) showed funding for the service has fallen almost 30% during a decade of austerity, with analysis demonstrating library loans have plunged by 43% over the same period.
CILIP called on political parties to make a commitment to libraries during the election campaign. It said the government’s planned £25m investment, through its Cultural Investment Fund, was “roughly one-tenth of the capital investment we need to deliver a world-class library sector over the lifetime of this Parliament”.
An extra £250m would bring the funding close to its 2009/10 level of £1bn. The CIPFA figures show the sum is currently £744m, a slight improvement on the previous year.
CILIP chief executive Nick Poole said the new government should use Thursday's Queen’s Speech to create a National Library Improvement Plan and matching investment, “empowering us to deliver the modern, professionally-run, forward-facing and transformative libraries Britain deserves”.
He said: “The UK’s fantastic, modern public library networks reach every part of the country. From the Midlands Engine to the Northern Powerhouse, Scotland to the South East, libraries are an incredibly cost-effective way to deliver on key policy agendas.
“Austerity has wreaked havoc on the quality, consistency and accessibility of our public libraries, seriously undermining our ability to deliver quality services for everyone, reducing the overall library estate and triggering the loss of thousands of dedicated professional staff.”