Research and Analytics

Leisure and Culture

Public Library Statistics

January 2006

Local authorities have provided public libraries for over 150 years in the United Kingdom. They play a key role as repositories of educational and informative material that is freely accessible to all members of society. Library services have a statutory base unlike some other leisure and cultural services whose provision is deemed as discretionary.

In recent years the traditional view of library services has been challenged by factors such as the spread of digital information and media. The government has sought to develop a policy framework that seeks to transform public libraries and the public perception of them.

The vision for libraries was set out in a ‘Framework for the Future’, the government’s 2003 strategy document that identified how libraries can contribute to the well-being of citizens and communities. It emphasised the promotion of reading and informal learning with access to digital services for all members of the community through initiatives such as the ‘People’s Network’. This strategy was developed into an action plan, which can be viewed at the MLA website.

In order to assess progress towards the goals set out in the ‘Framework for the Future’ - a set of Public Library Service Standards (PLSS) and Impact Measures have been developed. Statistical data generated by local authorities provides the information for monitoring progress on both financial and non-financial measures. Since the introduction of the standards there has been a significant increase in library opening hours, improvements to stock and Information Communication Technology (ICT) provision. This appears to have resulted in an increase in user satisfaction and visits. The Impact Measures complement the ten PLSS’s and they have been developed together to show real evidence of the value and impact that public library services have on individuals and their communities. The results can be found at the Appendix to this publication (pages 92 to 96); more details can be found at

More in-depth coverage of the public libraries service can be found in the Institute’s Technical Information Services information stream, ‘Leisure and Cultural Services’ and ‘Charging’ found at Further information can also be found on the website of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council at and the government’s website at

Survey Response

We received returns from 205 authorities to our survey, equating to a response rate of 99%. The publication also includes data for Ireland supplied by The Library Council. However, the data in the commentary, regional and summary tables only relate to the United Kingdom.

In cases where responding authorities were not able to provide all of the information requested the missing data have been ‘grossed up', based on real data percentage increases over the previous year. To facilitate more meaningful comparisons the summary tables in this commentary and the regional and class totals in the main statistical tables include 'grossed' data (the methodology for grossing data is explained on page 6).

Inter-authority comparisons should be undertaken with caution. For example, inner city authorities have a duty to provide lending facilities to a daytime population which may far exceed the resident population. Conversely the shire counties have the expense of providing library services to a widely scattered population in rural areas.

Financial Statistics

Our statistics reveal that in 2005-06 local authorities in the United Kingdom spent a total of £1,132 million (excluding capital charges) on the provision of public library services. Local authorities estimate a further increase of £1 million to £1,133 million in 2006-07, this is on top of an increase of £33 million from 2004-05 to 2005-06. The pie chart in figure 1 overleaf shows the expected components of total expenditure for 2006-07. It is evident that the biggest component of expenditure is employees, which makes up more than half the total.

Figure 1 - Components of Total Expenditure for 2006-07 Estimates
Analysis of past data shows that whilst expenditure on premises and employees has generally remained stable since 2000-01, expenditure on books has decreased as a proportion of total expenditure from 10.3% to 8.3%. Conversely support service costs have risen form 8.4% to 10.3% in the same period. Income from fines remains low, meeting just 1.6% of total expenditure, compared with 2.0% in 2000-01.

Table 1 summarises trends in expenditure and income over the past 7 years. Net expenditure has seen a 30.9% increase since 2000-01.

Table 1 - Expenditure and Income 2000-01 to 2006-07
Non-financial Statistics

In 2005-06, the total number of full-time equivalent staff employed by libraries dropped by only 0.3% over 2004-05, this contrasts with the previous year where numbers decreased by 4.3%. Professional posts are those persons holding formal qualifications in librarianship through the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). Additionally these posts include persons who have completed their qualifying examinations, information science professionals, graduates and other trained specialists. Specifically, it is these posts that have decreased the most since 2000-01 and over the period they are down by 11.5%. Conversely, there has been an increase of 2.3% in other posts since 2000-01, these include administrative and clerical staff, persons who hold library certificates, trainees and all other employees. Table 2 summarises the movement in staffing since 2000-01.

Table 2 - Staff Establishment
In March 2005 the House of Commons Committee on Culture Media and Sport urged local authorities to seriously address library opening hours and locations. It argued that the current arrangements were a major barrier to access. Data reported in the Appendix to this publication shows the ‘Proportion of households living within specified distance of a static library’, this is PLSS1.

Analysis of library service points in Table 3 shows the number of static service points since 2000-01. There are now 4,115 central and branch libraries open to the public, 56 less than in 2000-01. Libraries open less than 45 hours have decreased in number form 3,443 to 3,000. However static service points open more than 45 hours have increased from 728 to 1,115. Mobile libraries have reduced in number over the same period from 655 to 597. The figures for the period since 2000-01 are summarised in Table 3.

Table 3 - Number of Library Service Points
It is generally recognised that the library environment itself is seen as a key factor in encouraging greater use of libraries, alongside more convenient location, modern surroundings, amenities and increased availability of digital media facilities. Table 4 below shows the trends in library usage over the past six years. During this period some areas have seen a decline, most notably a 21.5% reduction in the number of active borrowers. On a positive note the trend in reduction of library visits from 323.8 million in 2000-01 to 323.0 million in 2002-03 has been reversed in recent years with 342.2 million visits in 2005-06 a 0.7% increase over 2004-05 and a 5.7% increase since 2000-01.

Table 4 - Library Users
Table 5 provides summary statistics on library stocks and issues. The total bookstock at 31st March 2006 stood at nearly 105 million volumes or 1.7 books per person. However, no information is available on the 'quality' of these books, i.e. currency and condition. Table 5 shows the decline in bookstock and the increase in the number of audio-visual, electronic and other stock items since 2000-01.

Issues of books have decreased by nearly 83 million since 2000-01. Annual issues per person per year stood at 5.37 in 2005-06 compared with 6.79 in 2000-01. Issues of audio, visual, electronic and other stock have also shown some fluctuation over the period with an overall decrease of 7.5% since 2000-01.

Table 5 - Stocks and Issues
Summary Tables

Table A - General information (Actuals)
Table B - Expenditure and Income per 1000 Resident Population 2005-06 Actuals
Table C - Expenditure and Income 2005-06 Actuals
Table D - General information (Estimates)
Table E - Expenditure and Income per 1000 Resident Population 2006-07 Estimates
Table F - Expenditure and Income 2006-07 Estimates
Table G - Staff in Post at 31 March 2006
Table H - Service Points
Table I - Book Stock at 31 March 2006
Table J - Annual Additions
Table K - Audio Visual Stock at 31 March 2006
Table L - Audio Visual Stock - Annual Additions
Table M - Annual Issues
Table N - Library Users
Table O - Electronic Access

January 2006

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