Letter: Readers borrow and buy

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The Independent Online
NATIONAL Library Week was an extraordinarily successful celebration of the importance of libraries. I was disappointed therefore at your correspondent's negative interpretation of The Library Association/Dawson Opinion Poll results ('Readers prefer to buy than borrow books, poll finds', 31 October).

The findings show that 76 per cent of the population use libraries of one kind or another; 49 per cent use a library at least once a month; and 29 per cent of 15- to 24-year-olds at least once a week.

The most startling statistics, ignored in your report, show all socio-economic groups use libraries, despite some claims that libraries are the province of the middle classes. The poll showed that 59 per cent of the C1 socio-economic group use a library at least once a month, compared with 54 per cent of the AB group, 44 per cent of DEs and 42 per cent of C2s.

There were many other findings that readers might find interesting. For example, 72 per cent said libraries were open at convenient times; 68 per cent agreed they were welcoming places and the same proportion disagreed that people should pay at the point of use for libraries. Eighty-three per cent of the 15 to 24 age range believed charges should not be made. In contrast to the line taken in your report, over two-thirds disagreed that libraries were diversifying too much.

Why does your article place such a negative interpretation on one of the results of the survey: that 33 per cent of people who sought a book during the past 12 months turned first to a library while 64 per cent turned first to a bookshop? Libraries and bookshops are not in competition; they are complementary. Surely it is encouraging that people are borrowing and buying books?

Ross Shimmon

The Library Association

London WC1