London's libraries continue to close as spending falls


London has seen one of the UK’s largest percentage reductions of libraries in the past year, according to the annual libraries survey issued by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).

The region experienced a year-on-year drop of 2.5% in the total amount of libraries with nine less libraries this year in the capital than in 2012-13, the third highest reduction in the UK. London has also seen the largest reduction in spending on libraries, with a 6% cut to net expenditure, meaning that the capital is spent over £10m less in 2013-14 than in the previous year.

Woolwich is once again the region’s most visited library, with 1,087,524 visits per annum, and the Barbican had the most items issued in the area, at 396,970 in 2013-14. This is compared to Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library which topped both polls across the UK with 1,274,204 visitors and 1,124,406 items issued.

The CIPFA annual library survey covers the whole of the UK and saw the continuation of many of the recent trends for local authority-run libraries.

The survey saw the total number of libraries fall to 4,145 in 2013-14, 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 previous Parliament in 2009-10, resulting in a total drop over the five years of 7.5% with a net loss of 337 libraries in the UK.

Visitors to libraries also fell, down 2% in the year to 282 million visits in 2013-14 and down from 322 million in 2009-10. Last year also saw a 6% decrease in the number of books lent from 262 million issues in 2012-13 to 247 million in 2013-14 and down from 309 million books lent in 2009-10, a drop over five years of 20%.

Commenting on the UK-wide data released by CIPFA on libraries in the UK, 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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Notes to editors

  1. Headline figures from the latest CIPFA library statistics are available from, with the full dataset available to subscribers. The information is for the local authority financial year 2013-14.
  2. For national library data from CIPFA please see the national press notice here:
  3. Popularity is defined in relation to the number of visits to the library and the number of stock issues.
  4. *As in previous years the number of library service points excludes libraries open for less than ten hours a week.
  5. The data only includes libraries in authorities that responded to the survey questionnaire. The response rate across the UK was 91%.
  6. Regional library statistics:

Top 3 by number of visits per annum

Greater London


Greenwich Woolwich  1,087,524 
 Croydon Croydon Central 877,073
 Tower Hamlets Idea Store Whitechapel 689,381

Top 3 by number of issues per annum                                                  

Greater London                                                                 


City of London    Barbican  396,970
Southwark  Canada Water  372,980
Redbridge  Redbridge Central  358,118