The latest Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) library statistics show falls in numbers of facilities, visits to premises and library websites and books issued. Income to libraries is down by 4.3%, and the funding situation ahead is likely to be worse. The cuts are having an inevitable and depressing effect.
There is a positive statistic which we should pay attention to. Children's fiction borrowing has increased. By a small figure - 0.4% - but it's still up. This is the eighth year running that children's borrowing has risen, and it's no accident. Libraries have been working hard and imaginatively to support children's reading and it shows. It would be tragic if the current cuts undermine this work, especially as reading for pleasure is so key to children's life chances - there is a proven relationship to their social mobility.
It's interesting to look at the statistics for this year's Summer Reading Challenge which The Reading Agency runs with libraries. 750,000 children took part, like for like the same number as last year. Collective programmes such as these create economies of scale that are vital to libraries' ability to go on building a national reading culture. We need to continue to invest in the development of innovative reading programmes in libraries: we believe that they have a vital role to play in their local communities, not least in helping to tackle the country's literacy deficit of 5.1m people with low literacy skills in England alone.
Professional library staff are central to the continuing success of national reading programmes such as the Summer Reading Challenge. We need to retain a skilled base in libraries if the service is to continue to thrive.