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The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy’s (CIPFA) annual library survey published today has this year shown a continuation in many of the recent trends for local authority run libraries across the UK.
This year’s survey shows that the total number of libraries in the UK fell from 4,194 last year to 4,145* in 2013-2014, a net fall of 49 libraries and a drop of 1.2%. This is down from 4,482 in the last financial year of the last Parliament in 2009-2010, resulting in a total drop over the period of 7.5%, a net loss of 337 libraries in the UK.
Visits to libraries also fell 2% in the year down from 288 million visits in 2012-2013 to 282 million visits in 2013-2014. While active library borrowers fell from 10.3 million people in the same period to 9.8 million people, a fall of 4.2%. This compares to 322 million visits in 2009-2010 and 12 million active borrowers. Visits as a share of population have also seen a significant fall over the past five years from 5,213 per 1,000 people in 2009-10 to 4,404 in 2013-2014 a percentage fall of 15.5%.
The number of books lent has also dropped dramatically in the past few years. Last year saw a 6% decrease in the number of books lent from 262 million issues to 247 million. This is part of a trend that has seen the number of books lent drop from 309 million in 2009-10, meaning that over the past five years total books lent by local authority libraries will have dropped by 20%.
While the data does show that the fall in the total number of libraries in the UK has slowed over the past year, staff numbers continue to decrease significantly. Full time equivalent staff in UK libraries fell from 20,302 last year to 19,308 in 2013-2014, a drop of almost 5%; this is down from 24,746 staff in 2009-10 a fall of 22% in the period.
This has been offset by an increase in the number of volunteers, with 35,813 people giving some time voluntarily in libraries up from 33,808 or a 5.9% increase. This is a dramatic 100% increase from 2009-2010 when 17,550 people volunteered in UK local authority libraries.
Speaking on the survey, 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.”
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*As in previous years the number of library service points excludes libraries open for less than 10 hours a week.
Headline figures from the latest CIPFA library statistics are available on request and will be available from www.cipfa.org from Thursday 11 December, with the full dataset available to CIPFAstats subscribers.