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Public Libraries

Volume 458: debated on Thursday 29 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what estimate she has made of the percentage of the population that used a public library in each of the last five years. (130405)

The information necessary to estimate the percentage of population using public libraries in England across the whole period sought by my hon. Friend is not held centrally.

The DCMS ‘Taking Part’ cultural participation survey shows that 48.2 per cent. of all adults in this country visited at least one library during 2005-06. However, this was the survey's first reporting year so we do not have comparable information for previous years. Neither does this figure include library usage by children and young people under 16.

The Public Library Statistics, published annually by the Chartered Institute of Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) show that the following percentages of people in England borrowed at least one item from a public library (“active borrowers”) in the period 2001-02 to 2005-06:

Active borrowers as a percentage of total population

2001-02

27.6

2002-03

26.2

2003-04

24.8

2004-05

23.0

2005-06

22.2

The table, although focused on individual users, only reflects the number of people that used the library to borrow an item including books, DVDs and CDs. It does not take account of those people who used a library for other purposes such as reading a book or newspaper on the library premises, attending a reading or learning group or accessing information (whether in paper or online form). Increasingly, public libraries are becoming wider community resources that offer an increasing range of services.

The following table, shows the average number of visits to libraries in England per head of resident population in England as well the total number of visits overall.

Average number of visits to libraries in England per head of resident population

Visits overall (000)

2001-02

5.5:1

270,775

2002-03

5.5:1

274,053

2003-04

5.7:1

285,365

2004-05

5.8:1

288,382

2005-06

5.8:1

290,979