After struggling to find anyone I knew who had used one, I went to the statistical source (LISU Annual Library Statistics - thanks Seb Schmoller) and had a look. It wasn't pleasant reading.
Real expenditure on libraries has increased for the seventh consecutive year to over a billion (£1097m). One could expect that money to be spent on books and resources. In fact, over half is spent on salaries (55%) with a mere 8.7% spent on books.
Lending, stock and visits down
Despite the population having grown by 2.5% over the last ten years, over the same period we’ve seen borrowing fall by 38%, active lending stock down by 18%, and visits have fallen by 13%.
Libraries as downmarket Blockbusters
One could claim that the collapse of book borrowing is being replaced by electronic media, and this is true. The worrying thing is that audio (music) is also in sharp decline, with DVD hires showing the sharpest increase (160%).
But is this serving any useful educational purpose? Are libraries becoming downmarket Blockbusters? What will happen when this market changes and, as is already happening, movies are readily available on demand. As expenditure increases are libraries driving themselves into the rump-end of a crowded and doomed market?
It strikes me that public libraries are indeed a dying breed. The website’s own comment bravely predicts, and I quote from the sites own statistical report, “if the present rate of decline continues, the adult lending library may become a thing of the past in 15-20 years.”