There has been a "significant" decrease in public library usage over the last decade, with usage falling 14.3 percentage points since 2005, new figures have revealed.
The report, commissioned by the DCMS in partnership with Arts Council England and entitled Taking Part: a focus on libraries, measured the number of people who use libraries and looked at the most common reasons for changes in individual library use over time.
The report showed that 33.9% of adults had visited a public library in the year October 2014 to September 2015, which is down from 48.2% in 2005/06. Looking across all adult age groups, the report shows that the largest decrease in the proportion of adults who use the library has been among 16 to 24 year olds - 51% of adults aged 16 to 24 used a public library in 2005/06, but only 25.2% used a library in the year October 2014 to September 2015.
The report also found that a "significantly" higher proportion of adults from BAME (black, asian and minority ethnic) groups used a library in the year ending September 2015, than adults from the white ethnic group (49.3% compared with 31.8%). Although there has been a significant decline in library use by adults in both groups since 2005/06, the report revealed the gap between ethnic groups is increasing - in 2005/06 there was a difference of 10.3 percentage points between the two groups; in the latest year there was a difference of 17.5 percentage points.
Over the same period, the survey showed that more adults from the upper socio-economic group used a library than adults from the lower socio-economic group, 36.4% compared with 30.2%.
The survey also found that adults who live with children are significantly more likely to use public library services than adults who do not live with children. In the year between October 2014 and September 2015, 39.9% of households with one child used a library, 46.9% of households with two children and 47.5% of households with three or more children used a library. These proportions are significantly greater than the proportion among households with no children, which is 23.9%.
The survey also re-interviewed the same individuals annually in order to assess reasons for increased or decreased library use. Of the respondents interviewed, 21% visited libraries less often by the third interview, while 14% visited more frequently. The main reason for using libraries more often was to “encourage my child to read books”, which was cited by 20% of adults. A further 18% said their increased library usage was due to a desire to read more, and 15% simply had more time.
The most common reason for a decline in library use was having less free time, cited by 25%. A further 17% said it was due to buying or getting books elsewhere and 12% said they were now reading e-books instead.