north west sees largest fall in libraries in the UK


The North West region saw the UK’s largest fall in the number of libraries run by local authorities in the UK in 2013-14 according to the latest annual library survey from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy’s (CIPFA).

The region now has 14* fewer libraries than in 2013-14 than it did in 2012-13. Although this isn’t the largest percentage drop at 3.3% of the total number of libraries it is the biggest absolute fall in the UK this year. This is also reflected in the fall in book stock held by the region which saw a drop of 8.7%, higher than any other region in the UK.

These figures come after the region suffered the country’s largest reduction in spending on libraries in 2012-13.

Oldham was the region’s most visited library, with 610,060 visits per annum, while Carlisle had the most items issued in the area, at 349,831 items 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

North West 




Bolton Bolton Central


Lancashire   Harris Library, Preston  520,520

Top 3 by number of issues per annum                                                                  

North West

Cumbria Carlisle    349,831
Cheshire East Macclesfield  333,520
Lancashire Harris Library, Preston  291,858