The UK has lost nearly 50 libraries over the past year, according to full figures released today (11th December) by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).
Altogether, the the total number of libraries in the UK fell from 4,194 in 2012-13, to 4,145 in 2013-14, a loss of 49 libraries, and a drop of 1.2%. In the last financial year of the last parliament, 2009-2010, the UK had 4,482 libraries, meaning there has been an overall loss of 337 libraries in the past five years, a decline of 7.5%. The figures are based on information reported by local authorities, and take into account both closures and openings of libraries.
Visits to libraries and book loans have also fallen over the same period. Library visits in 2012-13 stood at 288m, which has dropped 2% to 282m in 2013-14.
Early leaks of the CIPFA data seen by campaigners earlier this week showed that the number of people borrowing books from libraries in England has halved since 1997.
The number of books lent has also fallen, dropping 6% from 262m last year to 247m in the past year. In 2009-10, the number of book loans stood at 309m, meaning there has been a 20% drop in the past five years. CIPFA records loans both through physical library points, and those made online.
The loan declines even impacted on children's books, which has traditionally been a growing loan area.
Adult fiction book borrowings dropped 8.2% over the past year, from 116m to 106m. Children's fiction loans meanwhile fell from 78m to 76m, a decline of 2.6%, and similar decreases were seen in non-fiction as well.
As in previous years, one of the few areas to see growth was the number of volunteers in libraries, with some 35,813 people giving voluntary time to libraries in 2013-14, a rise of 5.9% from the 33,808 people recorded last year. It is a dramatic 100% increase from 2009-10, when 17,550 people volunteered at public libraries. Against this, paid staff members decreased significantly, with the number of full-time equivalent staff going from 20,302 last year, to 19,308, a fall of nearly 5%. In 2009-10, there were 24,746 full-time equivalent staff, meaning there has been a decline of 22% since that time.
CIPFA’s chief executive Rob Whiteman said: "The landscape for local libraries in the UK is changing rapidly. While local authorities are continuing to seek new ways to make sure libraries can continue to act as a vital part of our communities, the statistics show that there is significant pressure on library services across pretty much every area of the UK. Despite the decline of libraries, borrowers and books, the growth in volunteers show that many local councils are committed to ensuring that their libraries explore new ways of keeping the doors open and engaging with their communities."
The most visited library in the country, not including the Library of Birmingham which opened in September 2013, was Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library (1,274,204 visits), which also had the highest number of loans (1,124,406). After that, Woolwich Library, Jubilee Library in Brighton, The Hive in Worcester and Croydon Central were highest for number of visits, while The Hive, Oxford Central, Cambridge Central and Chelmsford had the highest number of loans.
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