8,000 UK library jobs lost, BBC reports

An investigation by the BBC has found that almost 8,000 jobs in UK libraries have been lost over the last six years, leading to fears over the future of the profession.

Over the same period, around 15,500 volunteers have been recruited and 343 libraries closed.

The BBC submitted a Freedom of Information (FoI) request and compiled data from the responses of 207 authorities responsible for running libraries. The study found that: some 343 libraries closed. Of those, 132 were mobile services, while 207 were based in buildings (and there were four others, such as home delivery services); the number of closures in England is higher than the government's official estimate of 110 buildings shut; and a further 111 closures are planned this year.

It also showed that the number of paid staff in libraries fell from 31,977 in 2010 to 24,044 now, a drop of 7,933 (25 per cent) for the 182 libraries that provided comparable data. A further 174 libraries have been transferred to community groups, while 50 have been handed to external organisations to run. In some areas, such as Lincolnshire and Surrey, the move has led to legal challenges and protests from residents.

Councillor Sue Anderson said: "We are faced with government cuts of £83 million and like other local authorities we need to make the most from our reduced budget. Yes, we have needed to close four of our most under-used libraries (and merge two others), and some staff have left. But the model for libraries that we have now is not just sustainable, it offers a bright future for public space and learning."

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: "Libraries are cornerstones of their communities and are part of the fabric of our society, so it's vital they continue to innovate in order to meet the changing demands of those they serve.

"Government is helping libraries to modernise by funding a wi-fi roll-out across England that has benefitted more than 1,000 libraries and increasing access to digital services and e-lending.

"The Libraries Taskforce is also consulting on a new vision for public libraries that will help reinvigorate the service and ensure they remain relevant to local communities."