The Decline of Libraries

Survey reveals that 63.8% of people did not use a public library in 2012-13.

Figures show that more than 400 libraries closed between 2005 and 2012.

The number of people visiting a library at least once a year has dropped by 25% since records began in 2005-06, as the the number of libraries has declined by 9% between 2005 and 2012.

In the The Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) latest Taking Part survey, which measures public engagement with sports and the arts, 63.8% of people said they had not used a library in the year to the end of June 2013, compared with 63.0% in 2011-12, and 51.8% in the 2005-06 survey. In the past year, 16.1% of adults used a library website, up from 8.9% in 2005-06.

According to a DCMS spokesman, the decline in visits pre-dates recent library closures, and reflects changes in the public’s behaviour.

“This has pretty much been a year-on-year decline, so it has been a steady pattern,” he said. “People change, and the way that they want services changes. Libraries need to evolve, and to offer relevant services.”

Figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy show that 405 libraries closed between 2005 and 2012, a fall of 9%.Library campaigners have predicted a further 340 closures during 2013.


It’s important to note that there are many reasons for the decline, could it be due to the loss of specialist staff and budget cuts? Could it be that poor or reduced book stock, lack of staff or poor staff training, lack of promotion of events and so on are having a knock on effect on residents’ satisfaction with and use of the library service? But it would be strange if the huge trend towards eBooks had nothing to do with it.

At some point it seems likely that the increase in ebook sales, and decrease in physical sales is going to slow down and reach some kind of equilibrium. As ebooks (and the associated reader technologies) are relatively new, it’s obvious that we have this process of the increase of one and decrease of the other to establish that equilibrium. We don’t have any evidence to tell us when it will stop.

In many ways libraries and bookshops are in the same boat. I think both will survive but they will need to change to do so.

How can I create a cheap and effective campaign to aid one of my local libraries? It should inspire the library to change with the times and reflect the needs of library users in 2014. Also it should encourage library users to get involved and the importance of a library in the 21st century.


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