Tim Coates put in the comments section a few days ago the total expenditure on libraries in the UK over the last ten years.  He is, amongst other things, a key holder of library statistics, with the ones cited coming from Cipfa.  I had a play with them and came up with the following graphs that may be useful (and added them on the statistics page too).

The figures below show a drop in spending of 29% from its peak in 2009/10 if one takes in to account inflation. This is likely to be an exaggeration, however, as spending on staff salaries has been frozen (or nearly so: it was 1% last year) for the last three years and staffing represents a large percentage of overall library costs. If one ignores inflation completely, the decline from peak is more than halved at 13.8%. The true answer will likely be somewhere between the two figures.


2002 to 2012 raw stats

Source: Cipfa figures. Percentage calculated using Bank of England calculator at http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/education/Pages/inflation/calculator/flash/default.aspx

If we accept the inflation adjustments, we can see that spending is fallen by around a fifth compared to the average of the good times before. We can also see that the drop has been 10% per year since the coalition government took over, which is really quite something to think about.  If one is being optimistic and completely ignores inflation, libraries are back to same level as the decade before. Aren’t statistics fun?

2002 to 2012 percentage of 2012

Total annual expenditure inflation adjusted as percentage of 2012 spending

Well, no, they’re not.  These statistics are a tragedy, marking the sorrowful ripping apart of the false dawn of public libraries whose final glories have only just finished in the opening of Manchester Central Library (admittedly, though, some of the money could have been better spend – for example at the Library of Birmingham).  Just look at that precipitous drop, which even the non-inflation adjusted chart below is showing. Bear in mind also that some authorities, notably in England, are doing markedly worse than others.  The figures are improved by showing that of the other constituent parts of the UK. 

2002 to 2012 chart showing all




  • 40 per cent of children are at risk of developing literacy problems because they don’t bond with their parents – Independent. “those that fail to bond with their parents are likely to suffer low educational attainment, develop a range of risk behaviours leading to criminal activity in adolescence and also obesity.” …
  • Community Libraries: Part 1 – Leon’s Library Blog. “Community libraries tend to fall into two main categories: Community Managed and Community Led. That is, a library which is either run by a voluntary group outside of local authority control or one that is operated by volunteers with a lesser or greater degree of support from the local authority.” … “My own view is that even the term community library is a misnomer and as a concept has no place in a modern library service. Like others I believe that there is little evidence that such libraries are financially viable outside of local authority control, have robust governance frameworks, will attract the necessary long-term community support, or are credible in delivering a library service, not just comparable to paid staff, but also to justify them being part of a comprehensive and efficient service.” … “My main criticism of such libraries is that they displace funding from the parent library authority, often having the detrimental effect of hollowing out services.”.

“Community libraries are based on a flawed ideological notion (the big society), reflect poor business practice, and are driven by austerity measures rather than a strategic vision for the genuine improvement of library services. This leads to many councils retaining assets such as poor quality buildings and providing a second-rate service for reasons of political expediency while inflicting damaging reductions elsewhere within the professional service. Ultimately, community libraries are a distraction, taking up valuable time and resources, when more creative long-term solutions exist.”

  • Maria Miller’s great hypocrisy is in representing people entirely in the interests of her own career – Guardian. “Maria Miller‘s financial hypocrisies are the least of it. Her great hypocrisy is in representing people entirely in the interests of her own career, and she shares that hypocrisy with many of her colleagues. This is a deep, structural hypocrisy, one that the expenses scandal and the new rules that came of it don’t touch. Britain needs to decentralise” [At the time of writing, Maria Miller is still the minister ultimately in charge of libraries – Ed.].
  • Ministers unveil £410m transformation fund plus challenge panel – Local Government Lawyer. “The Department for Communities and Local Government said £90m would be distributed immediately. An additional £320m will be made available in 2014/15 and 2015/16 to areas “with ambitious plans for improving services that could include integrating health and social care; getting the unemployed back to work; or early intervention to get children ready for school”.”
  • Tracking my Photosphere Views each week while learning about discovery – What’s in Kenilworth. ” the latest image (of the library) shows a higher view rate than the rest. This was the first internal panorama of a public library in Essex,” [It shows over 260 views – Ed.].

UK local news by authority

  • Bexley – Citizens Advice Bureau service moves to two Bexley libraries – News Shopper. “The team previously provided services from Brampton Road in Bexleyheath but has moved to Central Library, Townley Road and Sidcup Library, Hadlow Road.”
  • Birmingham – £190m library where books are off-limits: New building ‘unfit for purpose’ because shelves can’t be reached – Metro. “Visitors to the striking new building are unable to access hundreds of reference books and periodicals kept in a private storage area called ‘the stack’. They have to make a special request if they want to see them – but staff are powerless to help because platform lifts needed to access them have not been delivered yet.” see also Staff at £188 million Library of Birmingham unable to reach the books – Telegraph. “The library’s director, Brian Gambles, said: “We fully understand how   popular materials in the closed stack areas of the Library of Birmingham are   and it is frustrating that we haven’t yet been able to give our customers   access to them. “We had planned to introduce this service in the autumn, after the   initial post-opening rush had settled a little, but because we’re still   awaiting delivery of equipment to enable staff to retrieve items from the   storage stacks safely, we have had to delay this service.  “I’d like to apologise to our customers and ask that they bear with us –    we hope to have the service available later this spring.””

“It’s a brilliant library if you want to wander through and go up and have a look from the roof,’ said one Birmingham University academic. ‘But if you want to use it for the purpose it was intended then it is useless.”

  • Cheshire East – Plan for libraries to become community hubs – Wilmslow.co.uk. “Restructuring of the library service and electronic book lending and returning has improved productivity and saved £700,000 in costs. Reorganisation of contracts and central supply services will save a further £300,000 and means the Borough’s 16 libraries will remain open. The Council has made savings of around £500,000 as a consequence of greater use of e-books and negotiating better deals on the purchase of traditional books, which have fallen in price.”
  • Devon – Shock at town library closure threat – Exmouth Journal. “Budleigh Salterton Library is one of 28 in the county for which the council will invite community ideas about how they could be sustained, pending the outcome of its cabinet meeting on Wednesday. The council says it has no single model in mind, but suggests that a proposed model in Topsham, where charity the Estuary League of Friends is set to take over the library, is the kind of thing that could be done.” … ““The council, however, does not intend for any libraries to close and is confident that communities, charities and any interested group, will get behind the proposals to keep the local services running.” but town deputy mayor says “volunteers, so where are these volunteers coming from to run the library?”.
  • Doncaster – Volunteers keen to run Doncaster libraries – Star. “More than 130 volunteers have expressed interest in running some of Doncaster’s branch libraries” … “With 12 libraries already being successfully run by community groups, there is a huge appetite from local people to take control of their centres, with full and ongoing support from the library service, says the council.”
  • Dumfries and Galloway – Council criticised over Castle Douglas library consultation – Daily Record. “Officials want to slash opening hours from 52 to 36 a week. But the town’s community council has criticised its lack of communication with residents over the plans. Member Martin Fortnum said: “There was meant to be a public meeting about it earlier this month but it was poorly advertised and was therefore poorly attended. “The community council certainly wasn’t notified.”.  Council says ““Attendances at these events varied across Dumfries and Galloway, ranging from 50 at the busiest to zero at the quietest. All received the same level of promotion. “It is accepted that time scales were tight but this was unavoidable in order to meet committee deadlines.””
  • Hampshire – September decision on Kingsclere library closure – Newbury Today. “The library, situated in Kingsclere Village Club (pictured), is threatened with closure, along with two other Hampshire libraries, in Grayshott and Milford-on-Sea. The county council, which says that only 11 per cent of villagers use the library, aims to slash 12 per cent from budgets by next year.”
  • Manchester – Zoom – Manchester Council / Libraries. “This is Manchester Libraries new community information website. Groups can add their own details and manage their own page and activity information which is all searchable. They get a friendly URL and they can add videos. All groups and activities can be liked or shared across Facebook, Twitter and G+. There’s also a widget that can be shared/embedded on a blog/website etc.
  • Perth and Kinross Groups left ‘homeless’  by West Mill Street Library closure – Courier. “Despite the best efforts of campaigners, West Mill Street Library in Perth closes its doors for good on Friday. Perth and Kinross Council confirmed that it would not reconsider the move, despite receiving an 1,800-signature petition demanding a stay of execution. As part of efforts to slash its outgoings by £281,000, the council carried out an intense review of library services in the area.”