Magazine article Library Administrator's Digest

Your Library: Use It or Lose It

Magazine article Library Administrator's Digest

Your Library: Use It or Lose It

Article excerpt

Now, more than ever, libraries need support, including whatever investment or bold financial planning is needed to take them forward.

This past week was certainly a busy one for the intrepid culture minister, Margaret Hodge. She gave a speech to the Association of London Chief Librarians, outlining her solutions to library decline, and while this second outing drew a lot less press, it was also fairly important.

For years now, the outlook for libraries has verged on worrying, to very worrying, to grim. Forty libraries closed in 2007, with the overall book-spend falling by 0.6 percent. Qualified librarians have been leaving in droves, with a dip of 4.1 percent in the number of professionals employed in UK libraries last year, and a further 6.6 percent decrease expected this year.

When it comes to current progressive ideals (the notion of mass recycling, for instance) libraries are decades ahead. And while the plummeting price of books has naturally affected library footfall, there is still a huge uptake of services. Five books were lent for every British citizen last year, with 53 percent of the population - a small majority, but a majority nonetheless using their local facility.

I have heard arguments that a bookish childhood points to an essential loneliness, and I would absolutely agree. Yet, given the circumstances, what would I have done without the outlet of the library? What would I be doing now? It's hard to imagine how my life would have panned out without such ready access to books.

So I was particularly interested to see what Hodge was proposing to address those depressing trends. …

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