Library numbers fall again, say CIPFA figures

7 Dec 18

Public library and staff numbers continue to decline as councils cut spending in this area, CIPFA’s annual library survey has revealed.

Library spending in Britain fell by £30m in 2017-18 as the service shed 712 full-time equivalent employees and 127 service points.

Staff and library numbers have fallen every year since 2010. Spending contracted by 12% in the last four years, CIPFA found.

CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman said libraries were a “canary in the coal mine”, reflecting wider trends in local government.

“A lack of funds is forcing many councils to get creative in how they deliver their services, and we find in our public libraries this loss of paid employees is creating a reliance on volunteers,” he said.

“Similar cost shifting is happening across almost all local government services, with communities finding everything from legal aid to green waste collection no longer as accessible.”

Whiteman called for “some honest conversations” about what the role of councils was and their direction of travel.

CIPFA’s survey also revealed a 10 million drop in visitors last year to 233 million. Almost 183 million books were issued to almost 8 million active borrowers.

A total of 51,394 volunteers put in almost 1.8 million hours last year to keep the library service alive.

Library services in Northamptonshire are being radically restructured as the county council attempt to get the authorities’ finances back on a sustainable footing.

Read Cilip’s Mark Taylor on statutory library services.

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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