January 18, 2020

Britain Has Closed Almost 800 Libraries Since 2010, Figures Show

From the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy’s (Cipfa) 

Data released today by CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy) shows a 29.6% decline in spend on libraries since austerity began in 2009/10.

National spending on libraries topped £1bn in 2009/10, but dropped to under £750m in 2018/19.

Since 2014/15, the total number of paid staff has reduced by 15.1% (from 18,028 to 15,300), while the number of volunteers has increased by 24.3% (from 41,402 to 51,478).

The data also reveals how local authorities have redesigned library services in response to tightening budgets and changing consumer habits. Spend on audio-visual materials, such as CDs and DVDs, dropped by over 60% in the last ten years as libraries have moved towards greater use of online resources.

However, this year’s survey suggests that things could be changing for libraries, with overall spend rising by 0.4% since 2017/18, despite 7 million fewer visits over the same time period.

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The three most visited libraries – Central Manchester, Wembley Library in Brent, and Woolwich Library in Greenwich – continue to receive well in excess of 1 million visitors a year.

There were 174,695,508 books issued to 7,505,485 active borrowers in Britain in 2018/19.

From The Guardian:

The number of paid librarians has also plummeted. In 2009/2010, the point marking the start of the Tory government’s austerity drive, there were 24,000 salaried staff working in libraries. Last year, there were 15,300 employees and more than 51,000 volunteers.

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From The Independent

The findings comes after a report this week revealed that children who own books are six times more likely to read above the expected level for their age and yet 380,000 pupils still miss out.

Rob Whiteman, CEO of Cipfa, said the data on libraries showed a sustained trend where services have been cut as stretched councils have forced to direct funds to priority areas such as social care.

He said: “This is the shape of today’s local authorities. As the country prepares to go to the polls, candidates should be having honest conversations with the public about the role of local government, and the future of lower priority services such as libraries.”

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Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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