Sad news to learn that more than 200 libraries closed this year as a result of government cuts

More than 200 libraries have closed in the past year, according to figures published by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) which is a sad loss to the community and will seriously deprive many children and adults of the joy of reading.  I know that the cost of books has come down over the years but there are still a great many households in the UK that cannot afford to spend money on books, and many children and young people who are not encouraged to read at home will sadly not have access to a whole new world that literature can open up for them. I speak from personal experience. If it hadn't been for my local library in Portsmouth I often wonder if I would have found my love of reading and writing.

Libraries also provide so much more than books, they are a focal point for the community, young and old and from every walk of life and background, they provide access to computers, to study groups, companionship, learning, fun and laughter. In a so called civilised society it is an act of vandalism to cut access to books. Books and reading enhance literacy levels, thereby increasing the chances for individuals to get better jobs.

The Annual Libraries Survey found that across 2011-12, taking into account all closures and openings, the UK has lost 201 static and mobile libraries. That's a staggering amount.

In 2010-11 there was a loss of 33 library points. The survey also shows a continued fall in the number of library staff, with the full time equivalent number of staff down by 8%. In the previous year, the decline was at 4.3%.

CIPFA's survey also revealed the busiest libraries in the UK. Top of the table for both number of visits and number of items issued was Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library, which saw 1,343,828 visitors, and 1,184,345 items borrowed.

The other most visited libraries were Birmingham Central, Croydon Central, Newcastle City and Brighton Jubilee. Croydon's libraries are in the process of being transferred to be run by a private company, while library budgets in Newcastle have been slashed. I have been honoured to have visited Newcastle Library twice to give talks.

The libraries with the most borrowings after Norwich are Oxford Central, Chelmsford, Cambridge Central, and Cardiff Central.

I look forward to visiting some of these and other libraries next year where I will be giving talks.


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