We have a strong partnership with Libraries Connected and the Association of Senior Children's and Education Librarians (ASCEL). Anyone living in the UK is legally entitled to borrow books for free from public libraries, ensuring that everyone can have equal access to the power and pleasure of reading, information and ideas, and the skill and expertise of the professional librarian. Libraries also run a wide range of other services, programmes and events.
Here are some of the key facts about libraries, including the numbers of libraries and their usage, the demographics of library users and the outcomes of using libraries.
Libraries in the UK (data from 2017-18)
- There are 3,618 public libraries (including mobile libraries) in the UK.1
- There are almost 8 million active borrowers at libraries in the UK.2
- 233.1 million visits to public libraries take place each year.3
- Libraries issue almost 183 million books a year.4
- There are 15,483 staff working in public libraries.5
- There are 51,394 volunteers working in libraries in March 2014, almost three times the number that there were in 2010 (17,550).6
Demographics of library users (data from 2017-18)
- 59% of 5-10-year-olds and 72% 11-15-year-olds visited the library in the last year.7
- 10% of 5-10-year-olds and 30% of 11-15-year-olds visited the library in the last week.8
- 18% of adults engaged in the library sector digitally (30% borrowed an electronic resource, e.g., downloaded e-books, e-audio or e-magazines, without visiting the library).9
- 36% of adults visited a public library in the last 12 months, including those visiting for academic or paid work purposes. The following differences in library usage were identified:10
Library attendance was higher amongst women (38%) than men (27%).
Adults in upper socio-economic had a higher rate of library attendance than people in lower socio-economic groups (35% compared to 30%).
Adults between 65 and 74 years old had higher rates of library attendance (37%) than adults in all other age groups, though this is closely followed by adults between 25 and 44 at 35%.
Adults who were not working had higher rates of library attendance than those who were working (37% compared to 30%).
Adults with a limiting disability had marginally higher rates of library attendance than those with no limiting disability (34% compared to 32%).
Adults from black and minority ethnic (BAME) groups had higher rates of library attendance than adults from the white group (45% compared to 32%).
Public views about libraries
- 72% of people in England think that libraries are an essential or very important service to the community, with a further 22% regarding them as fairly important.11
- Satisfaction with the library service is high among library users: of those who visited a library in 2017/18, 95% were either very satisfied or fairly satisfied with their visit.12
The outcomes of library use
- Public libraries provide positive outcomes for people and communities in a variety of ways, beyond simply providing access to books. They contribute to the formation of human capital, the maintenance of mental and physical wellbeing, social inclusivity and community cohesion.13
- Research funded by Arts Council England in 2015 found that after controlling for a wide range of factors, library use is positively associated with subjective wellbeing, with library users having higher life satisfaction, happiness and sense of purpose in life.14
- Being a regular library user is also associated with a 1.4 per cent increase in the likelihood of reporting good general health, valued at a medical-cost saving associated with library engagement at £1.32 per person per year. The aggregate NHS cost savings across the library-using English population is £27.5 million per year.15
- Libraries play a key role in providing books for children: research has shown that where library usage has increased for an individual, the most common reason given was 'I wanted to encourage my child to read books', selected by 20% of people, closely followed by 'I like to read/wish to read more' (18%).16
1 [Benedicte Page (2018) Latest CIPFA stats reveal yet more library closures and book loan falls The Bookseller]↩
2 [Vivienne Russell (2018) Library numbers fall again, say CIPFA Public Finance]↩
3 [Vivienne Russell (2018) Library numbers fall again, say CIPFA Public Finance]↩
4 [Vivienne Russell (2018) Library numbers fall again, say CIPFA Public Finance]↩
5 [Benedicte Page (2018) Latest CIPFA stats reveal yet more library closures and book loan falls The Bookseller]↩
6 [Benedicte Page (2018) Latest CIPFA stats reveal yet more library closures and book loan falls The Bookseller]↩
7 [DCMS (2018) Taking Part 2017/18: Annual Child Release]↩
8 [DCMS (2018) Taking Part 2017/18: Annual Child Release]↩
9 [DCMS (2018) Taking Part 2017/18: Quarter 4 Statistical Release]↩
10 [DCMS (2018) Taking Part 2017/18: Quarter 4 Statistical Release]↩
11 [Jenny Peachey (2017) Shining a Light Carnegie UK Trust]↩
12 [DCMS (2018) Taking Part Survey: England Adult Report, 2017/18]↩
13 [BOP Consulting (2014) Evidence review of the economic contribution of libraries p.5]↩
14 [Fujiwara, D et al (2015) The health and wellbeing benefits of public libraries]↩
15 [Fujiwara, D et al (2015) The health and wellbeing benefits of public libraries]↩
16 [DCMS (2016) Taking Part: Changes in Participation]
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