Spending on public libraries falls by £66m in a year


According to CIPFA’s annual library survey, the squeeze on council funding continues to take its toll on libraries, as spending, paid staff and branches declined again last year (2016/17), for the 7th year running.

During 2016/17 total expenditure on council-run libraries fell by £66m, paid staff numbers fell by 5% (869) and there are 105 fewer libraries*. During the same time period visits to libraries fell by 3%, which adds to a 14% decline over five years.

Whilst library resources continued to bear the brunt of austerity, the support libraries received to fill resource gaps rose in 2016/7 by 6%, this includes specific grants from the government and other bodies. During the same period, volunteer numbers increased by 8%, 43% since 2012.

Commenting on the results, Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive of CIPFA, said:

“Cuts in local authority funding are forcing councils to make difficult choices about which services they can afford. Unfortunately for libraries and library users, this is a low-hanging fruit that continues to be picked.  

“But, it isn’t all doom and gloom, as libraries are continuing to modernise while volunteer numbers have increased, proving that libraries remain an important community asset. But, to really ensure that libraries are able to thrive, local authorities need adequate and sustainable levels of funding.” 

Despite visitor numbers falling 14% in five years, the country’s most popular libraries continue to see annual visitor numbers in excess of one million. The top five most visited libraries for 2016/17 were:

  1. Library of Birmingham, Birmingham City Council                               1,601,520             
  2. Central Manchester, Manchester City Council                                    1,474,655
  3. Wembley Library, Brent Council                                                       1,389,199
  4. Woolwich Centre Library, Greenwich Council                                     1,187,332
  5. Croydon Central Library, Croydon Council                                         941,282

*For our survey a library is defined as a service point. A service point is any library, static or mobile, through which the public library authority provides or directly manages a service to the general public. A static service point must allow access to the general public (not just specific groups), and as a minimum, provide a staffed information point, stock loan facilities and a public access terminal. Departments within a single building should not be counted separately. Central libraries and branch libraries are counted as separate service points. 


Notes to editors

For a copy of the statistics, please contact David Stone. E: david.stone@cipfa.org or T: 020 7543 5703.

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