From March 2020 to the present, library book lending has fallen by nearly 9 million copies to 166 million before the coronavirus pandemic shut down some libraries, according to annual data from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting. Public funding fell by nearly £20 million to £725 million.
The librarian warned of the impact of the reduction of public services. Especially during the COVID-19 epidemic, some library branches have increased the availability of e-books and online services to meet the borrowing needs of readers. In October, according to the report of Library Connected, more than 350 million e-books were borrowed from late March to mid-August 2020, an increase of 146%, and the number of digital library loans increased by 5 million, combined with audiobooks and e-comics.
Isober Hunter, CEO of Libraries Connected, said: “We know that even before the current crisis, authorities in some places were in a financial crisis, which is also reflected in the reduction of library spending. But now it’s even more worrying that our members are told they’re going to face bigger cuts and their budgets will be cut by nearly 14% on average next year.” Isober Hunter believes that spending cuts will inevitably affect those who need libraries.
Isober Hunter added: “Library is a place where high-value services can make a meaningful impact on people’s lives, and it only accounts for 0.6% of parliamentary spending. If our community is to recover from the crisis, then adequate and sustained investment is essential.”
Nick Poole, CEO of the British Library and Information Association, said that the budget cuts were disappointing, but not surprising. 2020 is extremely difficult for everyone, but he is proud of the way public libraries are responding to the coronavirus epidemic. At the same time, he called on the UK government to provide more funds so that they can use digital services to enable the country to function properly during the lockdown.
In addition, Nick Poole added: “If the government shares our belief, libraries are indeed an indispensable service. Public library regulations also confirmed this during the second lockdown in the UK, and libraries need that treatment and funding.”