From The Guardian: Almost 130 public libraries have closed in the last year in Britain while an extra 3,000 volunteers have been brought in to run remaining services, as the decade’s austerity pressures see local authorities continuing to apply swingeing cuts to budgets.
The annual survey of British libraries by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) has revealed a similar picture each year since 2010, with the number of branches and paid staff falling every year.
Over the last year, spending on libraries by local authorities fell by £30m to £741m. There was a net loss of 127 public libraries in England, Wales and Scotland, while 712 full-time employees lost or left their jobs and volunteer numbers increased by 3,000, to 51,394.
“Community-run” library branches have become the norm in the UK as councils ask volunteers to take the service off their books. In 2010, estimates from Public Libraries News suggest there were only around 10 libraries in the hands of volunteers; by 2017, the figure had risen to around 500. Cipfa calculations show that 10,000 new volunteers have joined Britain’s library service over the last three years, increasing from 41,402 in 2014-15 to 51,394 in 2017-18.
Rob Whiteman, CEO of Cipfa, said libraries were “a canary in the coal mine for what is happening across the local government sector”.