We have a strong partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) 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 2013-14)1
- There are 4,145 public libraries (including mobile libraries) in the UK.
- There are 64.1 million library members and 9.8 million active borrowers.
- 282.3 million visits to public libraries take place each year.
- Libraries issue 247.2 million books a year, including 89.2 children's books, 107 million adult fiction titles and 51 million adult non-fiction titles.
- Public libraries have a combined total of just over 88 million books in their collections.
- There are 19,308 staff working in public libraries.
- There are 35,818 volunteers working in libraries in March 2014, double the number that there were in 2010 (17,550).2
Demographics of library users (data from 2014-15)
- 68% of 5-10 year olds and 74% 11-15 year olds visited the library in the last year.3
- 14% of 5-10 year olds and 29% of 11-15 year olds visited the library in the last week.4
- 15% of adults engaged in the library sector digitally (4% visited a library website but not a physical library and 11% both visited a library and a library website).5
- 35% of adults visited a public library in the last 12 months. The following differences in library usage were identified:6
- Library attendance was higher amongst women (39%) than men (30%).
- Adults in upper socio-economic groups had a higher rate of library attendance than people in lower socio-economic groups (36% compared to 31%).
- Adults between 25 and 44 years old had higher rates of library attendance (41%) than adults in all other age groups.
- Adults who were not working had higher rates of library attendance than those who were working (38% compared to 32%).
- Adults with no limiting disability had higher rates of library attendance than those with a limiting disability (36% compared to 32%).
- Adults from black and minority ethnic (BAME) groups had higher rates of library attendance than adults from the white group (48% compared to 33%).
Public views about libraries
- 74% of people in England think that libraries are an essential or very important service to the community, with a further 19% regarding them as fairly important.7
- Satisfaction with the library service is high among library users: of those who visited a library in 2013/14, 95% were either very satisfied or fairly satisfied with their visit.8
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.9
- 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.10
- 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.11
- 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 21% of people.12
1. [LISU, (2015) LISU's UK Statistics p.2]↩
2. [BBC News Online The volunteers who are keeping local libraries alive 10 July 2015]↩
3. [DCMS (2015) Taking Part 2014/15 Annual Child Report p.6]↩
4. [DCMS (2015) Taking Part 2014/15 Annual Child Report p.21]↩
5. [DCMS (2015) Taking Part 2014/15 Quarter 4 p.32 ]↩
6. [DCMS (2015) Taking Part 2014/15 Quarter 4 p.28-29 ]↩
7. [CarnegieUK Trust (2012) A New Chapter Public library services in the 21st century: England p.2]↩
8. [DCMS (2015) Taking Part 2014/15, Focus On: Free time activities p.11]↩
9. [TBOP Consulting (2014) Evidence review of the economic contribution of libraries p.5]↩
10. [Fujiwara, D et al (2015) The health and wellbeing benefits of public libraries Summary paper p.4]↩
11. [Fujiwara, D et al (2015) The health and wellbeing benefits of public libraries Summary paper p.4]↩
12. [DCMS (2015) Taking Part Initial findings from the longitudinal survey p.29]↩
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Find out more about our work with libraries