Library of Birmingham visitor numbers plummet by 600k

Library of Birmingham visitor numbers plummet by 600k

Visitors to the £183m Library of Birmingham have plummeted by almost 600,000 in a year.

According to the Birmingham Mail, the library, which was opened to great acclaim in September 2013, was visited by 1.83m people in 2015, a decline of almost 600,000 from 2.4m visits the year before.

The library costs the council more than £70,000 for every day it operates as a result of “giant interest bills,” according to the newspaper.

A total of 3.89m people visited the city’s network of libraries in 2015 - 609,000 fewer than the 4.5m the year before.

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: "It should come as no surprise that visitor numbers at the Library of Birmingham were higher in 2014, during its first year of opening, when it was inevitable there would be a greater volume of visitors coming to see this fantastic new building. Including this alongside citywide library figures does not tell the full story as visitor numbers at Birmingham’s community libraries have fallen by just 1.1% in the last year."

The spokesperson added: "The Library of Birmingham is an incredibly popular and well-used facility, remains one of the most visited attractions, not just in Birmingham but in the UK as a whole, and is a building the city can be proud of.”

However, the level of interest the council has to pay on the expensive library building has been criticised by veteran library campaigner and former Waterstones' boss Tim Coates.

He told The Bookseller: “The Library of Birmingham is a monument to the appalling and disgraceful standard of local government in our country. Are we really expected to believe that having borrowed nearly £200m to create the building, no-one anywhere anticipated the payments of interest that would be needed? There should be a national and rapid public inquiry into what happened, covering the sources and applications of all funding of Birmingham city council in the pursuit of dramatic improvement.”

Aside from the city centre library, five more libraries in Birmingham received more than 100,000 visitors in 2015. They were branches in South Yardley, Kings Heath, Small Heath, Sparkhill and Sutton Coldfield.

In 2015, the Library underwent a £2.1m conversion which saw the opening of a language school. The move saw the library's opening hours extended following a dramatic cut in hours from 73 to 40 earlier that year.