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The South East region has seen one of the UK’s largest percentage reductions in library books in the last financial year, according to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy’s (CIPFA) latest Annual Libraries Survey.
The region experienced a year-on-year drop of 4.2% in its total amount of book stocks, which is one of the largest in the UK.
However importantly, the South East was one of the only regions in the UK not to close any libraries in 2013-14.
Brighton & Hove Jubilee is the region’s most visited library and the third highest in the UK slipping from its second place last year, with 1,003,702 visits per annum. And Oxford Central issued the most items in the area, at 605,530 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 nationally the survey 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 last 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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Top 3 by number of visits per annum
South East exc. London
Brighton & Hove Jubilee 1,003,702
Milton Keynes Milton Keynes 630,122
Oxfordshire Oxford Central 560,071
Top 3 by number of issues per annum
South East exc. London
Oxfordshire Oxford Central 605,530
Brighton & Hove Jubilee 451,619
Milton Keynes Milton Keynes 421,601