Library book spend heads into free fall

<p>Book spend by public libraries in the UK fell again in 2006/07&mdash;and the pace of decline is accelerating.</p><p>The library service spent &pound;77.8m on books in 2006/07, equivalent to just 8.7% of its overall budget. According to the LISU Public Libraries Materials Fund and Budget Survey 2006&ndash;08, backed by Nielsen BookData and due out in October, the fall marks a decline of 0.6% from the &pound;78.2m spent in the previous year and is expected to double again to 1.2% in 2007/08.</p><p>The picture is not all gloom&mdash;libraries in Northern Ireland more than doubled their book spend for the second year running&mdash;but publishers and library campaigners have called on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to take immediate action in England. </p><p>&quot;These figures cannot be ignored. [Culture Minister] Margaret Hodge and Roy Clare [c.e.o. of the MLA] have got to own up to the problem and deal with it,&quot; said library consultant Tim Coates. Richard Charkin added: &quot;All this confirms what people like Tim Coates have been saying all along&mdash;that public libraries are not being funded adequately. The sooner the new organisation at the MLA does something about it, the better.&quot;</p><p>The DCMS refused to comment on the figures. The MLA said it would analyse the results &quot;to find the best practice and help achieve efficiency and effectiveness&mdash;that means highlighting those authorities that are able to deliver more for similar levels of spending, not just in book lending but the growing range of services that libraries offer.&quot;</p><p>The decrease in book spend comes in tandem with pressure on the overall libraries budget, which in 2006/07 fell for the first time in six years. The budget was squeezed 0.3% to &pound;890m, compared to an increase of 5.6% in 2005/06, and is expected to fall a further 0.9% in 2007/08. </p><p>&quot;The prognosis is not optimistic, with the London boroughs, the English counties and Wales all predicting decreases,&quot; the report said. The budget pressure also forced cuts to library staff and a shift away from professionally qualified librarians. The number of professionals employed in UK libraries decreased by 4.1% in 2006/07; a further decrease of 6.6% is expected in 2007/08.</p>