Nearly 130 public libraries were closed in the last year in Britain, while another 3,000 volunteers were introduced to manage the remaining services, as the austerity pressures of the decade see local authorities continue to apply attractive cuts to budgets.
The annual survey of British libraries by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) has revealed a similar picture every year since 2010, with the number of branches and paid staff falling each year.
In the last year, library spending by local authorities decreased by £ 30 million to £ 741 million. There was a net loss of 127 public libraries in England, Wales and Scotland, while 712 full-time employees lost or quit their jobs and the number of volunteers increased by 3,000, to 51,394.
The community-run library branches have become the norm in the UK as councils ask volunteers to pick up the service from their books. In 2010, estimates of Public Libraries News suggest that there were only 10 libraries in the hands of volunteers; by 2017, the figure had risen to about 500. Cipfa's calculations show that 10,000 new volunteers have joined the library service of Great Britain in the last three years, rising from 41,402 in 2014-15 to 51,394 in 2017-18.
Rob Whiteman, CEO of Cipfa, said that libraries are "a canary in the coal mine for what is happening throughout the local government sector".
"Lack of funds requires many tips to become creative in the way they provide their services, and in public libraries we find that this loss of paid employees is relying on volunteers," he said. "Such a shift in costs is happening in almost all local government services, and communities that find everything from legal assistance to green waste collection are no longer accessible." There really has to be honest conversations about the direction of trip of our advice and what their role is, since the financial gap will continue to exacerbate these problems ".
While visitor numbers have fallen by 10 million this year, to 233 million, the three most popular bookstores in Britain – the central library of Manchester and the Wembley and Woolwich Center libraries in London – have continued to see beyond a one million people last year.
Tim Coates, the former managing director of Waterstones and now a library host in the United States, said that Britain's difficulties were unique. "The real heart of the problem with British public libraries is that they are terribly mismanaged and managed," he said. "The decline in use has been going on for over 20 years, long before funding cuts began, and no one in the government or profession or in the library sector has taken the necessary action to improve. literally dozens of inefficient and wasteful relationships and initiatives have been literally.
"The United States and Australia show greater use and popularity of their traditional public libraries, so it can not be true to say that" the change of technology or the change of society "has caused the decline. used is reasonable that taxpayers pay less … People certainly want public libraries, but not in the way they are handled at the moment.The service is poor.We need a whole change of management. "
Nick Poole, Cilip's managing director, the library and information association, defined the figures as "a clear alarm bell" and called on the government to use the next 2019 expenditure review announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond in October, to invest in libraries once again.