Wednesday, 10 Jul 2019 11:31 GMT

UK libraries in danger

A campaign by the former managing director of Waterstones has revealed bleak statistics regarding the use of libraries in the UK.

Tim Coates recently commissioned research which asked 300 UK residents about their reading habits. The results showed that whilst around 87% of people read books, the amount of people who used a library to obtain their last book was only 8%.

This research comes just six months after it was reported that spending on books by public libraries in England had fallen by 20%.

Speaking to The Bookseller, Coates explains: “It’s an important message not just to libraries but to publishers too. In the US libraries still play an important part. In the UK they just don’t at all.

“It’s this constant message from the library sector that we’re not really about books. It’s gone on so long that headmasters, local councillors and people who fund them have just said ‘ok, children don’t read, they watch TV and go online.’”

Another book patron who is preparing to take on TV is newly appointed Children’s Laureate and author, Cressida Cowell.

...modern users expect to be able to access a wide range of e-resources and activities in their local library, so library managers have decided how to balance a very limited budget to meet these needs

During her two years in the role, the How To Train Your Dragon author plans to boost creative writing and halt the decline of primary school libraries, amongst other things.

Speaking to the BBC about why she is prioritising school libraries, Cowell says: “I love films and TV, but books offer something special and different, bringing out creativity, empathy and intelligence.

“Primary school libraries I’m going to be looking at in particular – should they be statutory, should they be part of the Ofsted inspection? If you read for the joy, regardless of socio-economic background, you’re more likely to be successful academically.

“But socio-economic factors get in the way of reading for joy. So how do we address this?”

Cressida Cowell plans to use her role as Children’s Laureate to halt the decline in primary school libraries

In March, plans to close even more libraries in the UK and turn them into community hubs instead raised the question of how libraries could be brought into the 21st century.

When the release of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy’s (CPIF) annual figures showed a decline in library services at the end of 2018, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) issued a statement which backs the idea that modernised libraries are needed.

As reported by The Bookseller, the statement says: “CILIP agrees that there is a clear link between the quality and currency of book stock and footfall in libraries.

"However, modern users also expect to be able to access a wide range of e-resources and activities in their local library, so library managers have decided how to balance a very limited budget to meet these needs. That is why we need to keep making the case for sensible investment in these vital local institutions.”

If you have any news, please email carys@linkpublishing.co.uk or join in with the conversation on Twitter and LinkedIn.