The Word On: Britain's libraries

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The Independent Culture

The high-profile library closures in Wirral and Swindon are being followed by others ... Yet paradoxically, while the recession poses such a threat to the funding of public libraries, across the country a reverse trend is being reported. Visits and issue numbers — long the subject of decline, as this week's statistics [from] CIPFA (the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy) demonstrate — are rising ... Libraries have not been slow to broadcast the message that they are a good recession destination.

Benedicte Page (

No one in the government ... seems to read, understand, digest and act upon the information [in the CIPFA figures]. It is as if the performance of an institution which employs 25,768 full-time people and a further 15,008 volunteers, which costs the taxpayer £1,164,341,689 in a full year and which occupies, mostly free of charge, 4,540 national buildings, does not merit scrutiny or serious management analysis of any kind at a national level".

Perkins (good

[At a meeting with the Department of Culture], I argued that poor book stocks reduce reading. Members of the public who fail to receive the book they want for whatever reason stop borrowing. This establishes a spiral of decline.

Alan Gibbons (