The South West largest increase in libraries


The South West has seen an increase in the number of libraries in the region, according to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy’s (CIPFA) Annual Libraries Survey. This is against the trend for libraries across the rest of the UK.

The region experienced a year-on-year net increase in libraries with two opening during this period*, the largest in the UK. However, the region is one of only a few areas to see a reduction in its income, down 1.1% in 2013-14.

The Central Library in Bristol is the region’s most visited, with 588,482 visits per annum, and Salisbury Library issued the most items in the area, at 325,562 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 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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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
  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
  Bristol Central Library, College Green   588,482
  Bath & North East Somerset Bath Central   484,632
  Cornwall Truro       442,651
Top 3 by number of issues per annum 
  Wiltshire Salisbury      325,562
  Bristol Central Library, College Green   315,972
  Somerset Taunton      310,779