There is much debate on the position of public libraries going on in the UK at the moment in response to a government report which found a strong decline in library use.
Since 2005/06, there has been a steady decrease in the proportion of adults visiting a public library (from 48.2% to 39.4% in 2009/10), although rates remained stable between 2008/09 and 2009/10.
The decrease in library visits is consistent across all socio-demographic groups.
What worries me is that this report seems only to be talking about physical visits, has there been an analysis of virtual visits, are virtual visits being counted as library use? If not they should be.
The suggestion from the government is that libraries should adapt to changing times by losing all that they are and should be, by moving into shops, being run by volunteers etc.
See BBC coverage here and here.
Already in the past year there have been numerous public library closures across the UK, and this trend seems set to increase. We can do little but express solidarity with our librarian colleagues overseas.
Over here we can keep making our libraries relevant so that we do not face a similar situation.
Update – the report indeed only counted physical visits. Given that most if not all public libraries offer a telephone or online (or both) service in which library transactions are made, it is ridiculous that these transactions were not counted merely because the patron did not enter the establishment.
How can libraries offer real and useful online services, including, requests to purchase, reservations, renewals, reference services etc. if these services cannot be counted as legitimate transactions.