Press release: library expenditure in Great Britain falls 17%


CIPFA’s annual library survey, published today, reveals total expenditure on libraries in Great Britain fell 17% to £9,982 per 1,000 people in 2021/22, from £11,970 in 2020/21. This continues year-on-year declines in expenditure since 2018/19, when total expenditure stood at £12,646 per 1,000 people.

The survey also shows that the income libraries received fell by 24% over the last financial year, which will put yet more financial pressure on libraries as high inflation increases their running costs. This is a drop from £868 per 1,000 people in 2020/21 to £660 per 1,000 people in 2021/22. 

In-person visits to libraries have increased by 68% since the pandemic, from 915 per 1,000 people in 2020/21 to 1,536 per 1,000 people in 2021/22. The number of books borrowed has also increased by 58% to 1,767 per 1,000 people, from 1,119 books in 2020/21.

Web visits have fallen slightly during the same period to 2,184 per 1,000 people, which is an 8% decrease.

While staff levels have remained relatively steady, the number of library volunteers has not recovered since the COVID-19 pandemic. Volunteer numbers have fallen from 0.39 per 1,000 people in 2020/21 to 0.23 over the last financial year, a 41% decrease. 

CIPFA CEO, Rob Whiteman, said:

“It’s encouraging to see that library visits are increasing since the pandemic, but the same cannot be said for funding and income levels, which still lag behind. Libraries are certainly facing a difficult road ahead.

“The fact that in-person visits are recovering shows demand for library services is still strong. Libraries are clearly still valuable to the communities they serve but given the drop in their income, sustained funding is crucial if they are to continue to be a vital part of the community.”

   2020/21  2021/22  Percentage change
 Expenditure per 1,000 people  £11,970  £9,982  -17%
 Library visits per 1,000 people


 1,536  68%
 Employees (FTEs) per 1,000 people  0.22  0.21  -6%
 Volunteers per 1,000 people  0.39  0.23  -41%
 Books issued per 1,000 people  1,119  1,767  58%
 Total revenue income per 1,000 people  £868  £660  -24%
 Web visits per 1,000 people  2,374  2,184  -8%


Notes to Editor:

CIPFA is the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.

The time period for the data covers the 2021/22 financial year.

CIPFA’s annual library survey is sent to all local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales. The figures for the 2021/22 financial year are based on a 43% response rate to the survey. The data has then been calculated to represent values per 1,000 people of the combined population of England, Scotland and Wales.

Figures have been presented as per 1,000 people to provide the most accurate data possible based on the survey response rate and to enable comparison to previous years.

Total revenue income for libraries includes specific grants, overdue charges, reservation fees, lettings, hire of audio and visual materials, electronic revenue, provision of library services to other local authorities, receipts from the public (e.g., photocopying), corporate income and other miscellaneous sources. The total expenditure is how much was spent on libraries by central and local government.

These statistics are based on provisional questionnaire returns from local authorities and are liable to adjustments and alterations before the final dataset is released.

If you have any further enquiries please visit the CIPFA press desk.

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