The amount of money libraries in Great Britain are spending on books has fallen by £45.8m since 2007, deeper analysis of figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has revealed.
The analysis, undertaken by library campaigner and former Waterstones' m.d. Tim Coates, has also revealed the number of libraries which closed last year might be worse than feared.
Last week, it was reported that 105 libraries closed in Great Britain in the year to April 2017, but it has now come to light that 28 out of 151 local authorities did not provide full figures to CIPFA, including Liverpool, Kirklees and Bradford, all areas where library services have been threatened with cuts.
Coates' analysis of CIPFA's data has shown that the purchasing of print books for libraries in England has fallen from £75.8m in 2007 to £36.3m last year. In Great Britain overall, the spend has fallen £45.8m in that time to £44.7m.
Last year, total expenditure on public libraries was £943m in Great Britain and £793m in England.
The figures also revealed that lending to children and adults has also decreased, with children’s book loans declining 21% over five years, while adult lending has plummeted 70% in 20 years.
Coates told The Bookseller the figures show there are "really serious problems" with the libraries service. He believes a "key issue" is how estranged the library and publishing sectors have become.
"The publishing industry and the library industry need to bring themselves closer together for both their sakes - in too many ways they have become separate for too long and that has inflicted serious damage on each. In the US we continue to build that bridge, but it is not happening here", said Coates.
A report from Arts Council England last week revealed the outlook for in literary fiction was "negative" and attributed this in part to the decline in the library service. Coates said: "It isn't just literary fiction that has suffered because of the demise of libraries. Reference works, mid-list fiction and non fiction are also struggling. These are matters that the heads of both sectors should be concerned with."
Meanwhile, Ian Anstice, editor of Public Library News, said that the figures continue show that the deep declines in spending on public libraries are what leads to declines in usage.
Anstice told The Bookseller: "The example of other countries show that the decline of the library in the UK is not a natural thing: this is man-made disaster, brought on short-sighted but long-term cuts in spending and a deep lack of understanding, or possibly absence of concern, by those in central government of the impact that such measures will have on those who rely on libraries for equality of access to information and to imagination. Ability to pay in now an increasing barrier to those who want to read or to study, in paper form or online."
Following the original CIPFA release, a DCMS spokesperson said: "The government is completely committed to helping libraries prosper and recognise the important place they have in communities across the country. We have invested almost £4mon innovative libraries projects - helping to increase access to new technology and improve people's digital skills and literacy. On top of that we have funded the rollout and upgrade of wifi to more than 1,000 libraries. Our historic £200bn four year local authority funding settlement has also provided councils with the certainty to plan ahead and provide effective services for their residents."
Meanwhile, the government has revealed that it intends to publish a full libraries data set before Christmas following pressure from campaigners. Last year, the Libraries Taskforce was slammed for releasing a basic data set about libraries which was simple list of the names, addresses, websites and contact emails for public libraries that were open as of 1st July 2016. Now, libraries minister John Glen has said the governemnt will publish a "full data set" before Christmas.
Shadow minister Kevin Brennan told The Bookseller: "I’m glad that DCMS have agreed to publish the Libraries Taskforce dataset before Christmas. This announcement comes after many months of the Labour Shadow DCMS team pressuring the Government to do so, through Parliamentary Questions, the FOI process, and raising the issue with the Leader of the House.
"The publication of this data is over a year late, and since then libraries have suffered another £66m hammer blow. Libraries are resilient, but the valuable services they provide continue be put at risk by brutal Tory cuts to Local Authority budgets. In order to protect our public libraries, we need data on the sector. Labour will be looking closely at the dataset when it is released."