By Vivienne Russell | 10 December 2013
The rate of UK public library closures slowed last year, with 74 libraries shutting compared to 201 in 2011/12, CIPFA’s latest library survey has revealed.
The annual poll of local authorities also found that visitor numbers had dropped off by 6%, while book issues fell by 2.3%.
Staff numbers were also down, declining by 6.8% year on year. This was in contrast to a marked increased in volunteer numbers, which increased 44% in 2012/13. Total staff numbers now stand at just over 20,000, while volunteer numbers are approaching 34,000.
Commenting on the findings, CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman said: ‘Local authorities across the UK have worked hard over the past few years to identify savings and reduce their spending, but now also seem to be looking at new ways of keeping their libraries open to the public.
‘While the number of libraries and staff have fallen again, this has slowed. However, the surge in volunteer numbers would suggest that libraries are searching for new and innovative ways to engage and serve their communities.’
Total expenditure on libraries fell from almost £1.1bn in 2011/12 to just over £1bn in 2012/13, a fall of almost £50m or 4.5%. It is estimated to fall by a further 5.1% in 2013/14 to £995m.
In terms of visits, the most popular libraries in the UK were the Norfolk & Norwich Millennium library, the Brighton Jubilee Library, Newcastle City library and Woolwich library in the Royal Borough of Greenwich.
Norfolk & Norwich Millennium, The Hive in Worcester, Oxford Central and Cambridge Central topped the list in terms of the number of items issued.