Use of council-run libraries declining, report shows

A report by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has found that the number of adults visiting public libraries in England has fallen by almost a third in the last decade.

The research measured the public’s usage of libraries in England since 2005, and found that the number of adults visiting libraries had dropped from 48.2 per cent to 33.4 per cent. The report outlined that the largest declines were seen in areas of ‘urban prosperity’ which had reduced from 57.3 per cent to 37.8 per cent, and also the ‘wealthy achievers’ group, with library use down from 50.9 per cent to 33.5 per cent.

The research identified that adults in more deprived areas of England visited libraries more than those in more affluent regions.

Commenting on the findings, Mark Taylor, spokesperson for the Chartered Institute of Library Professionals, said: “Proportionate use of libraries in the most deprived areas of England is strong, demonstrating the role these unique public services play in improving life chances through literacy, learning and access to knowledge for those communities with the most to gain.

“By law, our libraries are there for everyone in the local area that wants to use them and these figures strengthen the case for rapid modernisation of library services across the country – by extending opening hours, improving digital services and the availability of ebooks, and investing in books, buildings and good design.”

Desmond Clarke, a campaigner for libraries, argued: “It is irresponsible of the Library Taskforce not to have properly researched the reasons for such a ‘significant’ decline in library usage and not to have put in place an effective plan to attract back adult users. The crisis facing public libraries should be at the very top of their agenda. The new minister needs to tell them to get their act together.”

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