14 million fewer books available in libraries than when David Cameron took office – Telegraph.co.uk
In 2010/11 there were more than 96 million books on Britain’s library shelves, but in 2014/15 there were just 82 million.
Since Mr Cameron entered Number 10 more than 400 full-time libraries have closed in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – with spending dropping by around £180 million.
Laura Swaffield, chair of The Library Campaign – a charity that supports friends and supporters of libraries – said children and elderly people were being worst affected by the cuts.
Photo: Heathcliff O’Malley
“It really is shocking. The whole network is being whittled away,” she told The Sunday Telegraph, urging those concerned to attend a protest at Parliament on February 9.
Ms Swaffield added: “The principle reason libraries are still being used these days is for borrowing books. If you cut away on the books available you are hitting a major pillar of the appeal of libraries.”
Councils have a legal obligation to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service for all people living in the area under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964.
Ms Swaffield called on ministers to intervene more swiftly when locals warn that council cuts to library services could put them at odds with legal obligations.
Valerie Vaz, a Labour MP on the Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group, said: “These figures are an indictment of this Government’s record on our libraries, which are treasured assets at the heart of our communities. They prove that the role of libraries in promoting books and reading is being undermined.”
A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: “Libraries in England are constantly modernising to provide the best service possible for the communities they serve.
“This includes removing costly unused stock and meeting the demands for e-book loans which have increased by 420 per cent since 2011.”
The spokesman said that more than half of the total English book stock reduction is made up of reference and reserve books.
They also noted that many libraries may have previously bought more than one copy of reference work have changed their policy and removed duplicates.
Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive of CIPFA, said: “Libraries had £180m cuts over five years, it’s no surprise they’ve got fewer books.
“But offering web facilities, classes and other community activities means many libraries are still well used.”