2012/13 Official library usage figures

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) released these figures on 6th December but they’re charged for and so ordinary mortals need to wait until the press covers them, which was on the 10th December.  The main points from this coverage are:

  • There were 74 static and mobile libraries fewer at the end of 2012/13 than at the beginning (compared to 201 lost in 2011/12). The rate of closure has therefore dramatically slowed, although it is unclear how this figure is affected by volunteer libraries .
  • 4.4% cut in expenditure (£1.,048bn).  Staff costs were static due to a pay freeze but inflation would have added to this figure to some extent in reality. Estimated figure for 2013/14 is £995m representing a further cut of 5% (with staff pay being 1% “up” this year).
  • 6% fewer physical visits  (288m)
  • 25% more web visits Therefore, if you add physical and online visits together and there was a 1.5% increase year on year (410m)
  • 2.3% fewer books held (92.2m)
  • 6.6% fewer book loans (262.7m)
  • 10.4% fewer non-book loans (19.7m)
  • 6.8% reduction in staff (20,302)
  • 44.5% more volunteers (33,808)

The major trends from are:

  • councils have continued cutting expenditure as before but realise there are less politically poisoning ways of doing it than closing libraries. Hollowing out of services (reductions in paid staff/bookfund/everything in fact) is going on instead.
  • The massive jump in the use of volunteers year on year is an indicator of one way that authorities are meeting the cuts.  That’s a gigantic year on year change and suggests something revolutionary is going on.
  • decline in use roughly reflects decline in funding.  There’s something deeper than this though.  I say this because it’s not simply less books meaning less borrows because the reduction in loans was three times greater than the reduction in bookstock. This is where e-books come in perhaps. One can assume from everything one sees on the street that e-books are affecting book loans but this is not an over-riding factor in these figures: the decline can be explained by cuts in expenditure rather than a shift to e-books.
  • online use is shooting up.  This is notoriously difficult to measure but, if you’re of an optimistic frame of mind, then if you add all the physical and online together, there was an increase in overall library visits last year.
  • audio-visual loans declining fast, presumably due to commercial online provision.
  • Having said that, UK libraries are managing to decline in a recession while usage in other countries (notably the USA) is generally increasing.  There is no clear answer to why this is so other than the sheer depth of the cuts being incurred (although I would hazard the guess that the broader level of households being online here than the USA has had some impact).

This is what other commentators say:

“”In a recession, and one with bookshops struggling, you would expect to see more people using libraries for the books and for the facilities. That seems to be the case in places like the US and much of Europe, so why isn’t that happening here? Ultimately there are deep issues. Austerity plays a part, but it is the failure to realise that simple presence of books and availability of reading are what make libraries useful for most of the people who want to use them that is the cause of the decline.” Tim Coates

“‘The figures show that councils are learning a new trick. You don’t shut libraries outright, because your voters will hate you. Instead, you dump them on to volunteers to run and call them “community libraries” … The headline statistics show the national trend, which overall doesn’t look great. ‘You need to drill down to the local details. These would show where library services are booming – as many are. Even more important, they would help show the factors that lead to success. But this analysis is not provided. Laura SwaffieldLibrary Campaign

“People seem to be missing the main trend which is less authorities are submitting figures: 2011-12 figures were missing in their entirety from 1 metropolitan authority, 3 unitaries & 3 Welsh authorities, financial figures were missing from another metro & 2 unitaries. 2012-12 figures were missing in their entirety from 2 London Boroughs, 4 metros, 4 unitaries and 4 Welsh, financial figures were missing from further authorities. It is difficult to compare when the largest metropolitan authority (Birmingham) does not supply figures – last year they were listed as having 286 staff. Looking at the volunteer figures Gateshead, South Tyneside and Leeds all reported a similar number of total volunteer hours but Gateshead volunteers averaged 5.7 hours a year, Leeds 35.5 and South Tyneside each 165.5 hour per year (29 volunteers providing 4800 hours). Can we really draw conclusions? It is year by year becoming less of a national picture.” Lionel Aldridge on Lis-Pub-Libs

“By my calculations visits are as follows: 2011/12 (000s): 404,312 (physical + web visits) 2012/13 (000s): 410,402 (physical + web visits).  Which equates to a 1.5% increase in visits year on year. So, library usage has increased slightly rather than decreased, despite cuts. Imagine how well the service would do if it was funded properly…” Ian Clark

  • CIPFA records continuing library closures – BookSeller. “The estimated figure for expenditure in 2013-14 drops below the £1bn mark to £995m, representing a drop of 9.4% from 2011-12.”
  • Library volunteers up by half in a year – Herald Scotland. “The institute said the data showed people are using libraries in new ways as a community hub, with storytelling sessions, reading groups and author visits all hosted in the buildings. Rob Whiteman, chief executive of CIPFA, said: “Local authorities have worked hard to identify savings and reduce spending, but also seem to be looking at new ways of keeping their libraries open to the public.”
  • Rate of library closures slowing, CIPFA survey finds – Public Finance. “The rate of UK public library closures slowed last year”



  • A veritable and vital treasure: Manatee County’s public libraries – Bradenton (USA).  “Utilization of online databases surged more than 80 percent over the just ended last fiscal year; Internet workstations and wifi use jumped a combined 37 percent, and eBook checkouts rose 34 percent. Overall over the year, library usage of all print and digital material surpassed 3.1 million — a record.”
  • Health Care Comes to Public Libraries – Governing (USA). “Libraries have hired child psychologists, social workers and language teachers. But only one public library system is known to employ a full-time nurse”
  • Public libraries branch out from more than just books – The Age (Australia). “hey have more than three times the annual attendance of AFL games, 10 times the membership of the MCC and the 180 permanent sites are the beating heart of many communities – they are the local public library. A recently completed two-year review of Victoria’s libraries attracted more than 3400 public submissions and led to recommendations for sweeping reforms to modernise the vital community hubs, including statewide library cards and more digital resources, including e-books, e-music and in languages other than English.” … “More than 300,000 e-books were downloaded from public libraries in 2011-12, 15 times as many as the previous year. There were 1.3 million wireless sessions at libraries, more than double the 515,000 from the year before.”
  • Torontonians Receive $5.63 of value for every dollar invested in Toronto Public Library – Toronto Public library (Canada). “Toronto Public Library recently commissioned the Martin Prosperity Institute, part of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, to conduct the first Canadian study to measure the library’s economic impact on Toronto. Results clearly demonstrate that Toronto Public Library delivers a strong return on investment through the delivery of library services that enhance Toronto’s competitiveness and prosperity and contribute to a better quality of life for all.”.  A library membership typically confers $502 of value …”On average, one open hour at any one of the library’s 98 branches generates $2,515 in benefits for the city of Toronto. The average cost of one open hour is $653, so the average benefit is almost 4 times the average cost.” [This is how you do it, guys – Ed.]

Local news by authority

  • Bradford – New City Library opens with a flourish – Telegraph and Argus. “Story-book favourites including Little Red Riding Hood and Robin Hood rubbed shoulders with civic dignitaries and invited schools and other guests at the official opening in the former Bradford 1 Gallery.”… “The new City Library will hold 60,000 books, 40 computers, a range of newspapers and journals as well as study space and Wi-Fi. Library staff will be on hand to help people with their choice of books, answer information enquiries and help people gain IT skills.”
  • Bradford – New library is a facility worth saving – Telegraph and Argus. “For its obvious faults, the old library was a big, roomy building and an established home for the various services offered, which these days go far beyond books and encompass computer access, events, multimedia and more. Now that the new City Library has opened, though, doubts can be assuaged. Despite being contained in a much smaller building, the new library makes excellent use of the space available and seems much bigger than it looks from the outside, with the upper storeys utilised well.”
  • Bristol – Council ‘wilfully ignored’ Bristol libraries’ 400th anniversary – Bristol 24-7. “Cllr Richard Eddy said it added insult to injury that, just three days after the mayor approved the Bristol Cathedral Primary School plans, the anniversary was largely ignored.” … “Cllr Eddy said: “It is not clear whether this slight by the council to properly mark this significant event is due to historical illiteracy, wilful ignorance or embarrassment over the fact that Mayor Ferguson has chosen to desecrate a first-class library service?”
  • Derby – Josephine’s library poem on mental health story – Derby Telegraph. “Josephine Abbott, of Chellaston, wrote a piece called The Rose Mirror – which will be available as an eBook in Derby City Libraries for anyone living, working or studying in the city. As part of the prize Josephine also received a Sony eBook reader with Wi Fi.”.  Linked in to Books on Prescription.
  • North East Lincolnshire – Libraries in North East Lincolnshire face closure amid £500k cuts – Grimsby Telegraph. “We will fight the closure of any libraries! That was the pledge from local councillors as North East Lincolnshire Council announced there would have to be dramatic changes to the service, which needs to save up to £500,000 next year.”
  • North East Lincolnshire – Libraries face £500,000 cut – BBC. “Closures, reduced opening hours or transferring control to voluntary groups are options being considered.” … “The Conservative-run council said the service had been making efficiency savings for several years but more needed to be done to “balance the books”
  • Sheffield – Fight is on for Sheffield city library – Star. “Angry residents battling to save their local library have spoken of their disappointment in Sheffield Council. More than 100 residents crammed into a public meeting at Upperthorpe Library at the weekend to put their opinions on record as part of a 12-week consultation over plans to shut libraries across the city.”