‘Library loans plummet in county’ – a response

It has been reported in the local press that library usage has declined in Gloucestershire.

This comes as no surprise to us given that there was a 40% cut in the book budget in 2010 and a cut of 30% in the library budget overall. The county council administration is running down our libraries and using the subsequent decline in usage to justify yet more cuts.

It is disappointing, yet unsurprising given her evident lack of understanding of the role of public libraries, that libraries portfolio holder Councillor Antonia Noble dismisses this decline with the claim that;

“People have more access to books and they are much cheaper to buy.” 

Councillor Noble goes on to champion an eBook service that does not even exist yet, and when it does, is not going to be compatible with the use of Kindles.

Rather than dismiss the decline with unsubstantiated claims that people have adequate alternatives, it is Cllr Noble’s responsibility to ask serious questions about why this is happening and how the library service can encourage usage. In so doing she will likely see that, as John Holland says in the article, running down the service over the last two years has led to a “self fulfilling prophecy” in declining usage.

We want to take this opportunity to remind Cllr Noble, once again, that 40% of the population of this county do not have access to the internet on which to purchase books from the likes of Amazon, let alone expensive gadgets such Kindles and Ipads as is suggested in the article, and that with increasing redundancies and rising costs of living these luxuries are going to be even further out of the reach of many people. She, and other supporters of these library cuts, perhaps also need reminding that not all schools have well-stocked libraries – another claim that has been used to justify the closure of public libraries. Similarly, while it has been pointed out that Gloucestershire has many charity shops selling books at knock-down prices, this isn’t much use if you are seeking a specific text for advice or study, or if you are an elderly or disabled person, a child, or person without transport who relies on the mobile library service (also planned for closure by GCC) to bring your books to you.

An adequate book stock is still very much needed in order to provide a thriving and well used library service. Gloucestershire are failing to provide this.

The courts heard in September that Gloucestershire Library Service has not undertaken a user needs analysis assessment since 2006. This is astonishing and is more likely to be the real reason, along with the budget cuts, for the decline in usage. How can GCC provide a service if they have no idea what people need?  How can Cllr Noble claim that users’ needs are being met elsewhere when she had not even bothered to ask the questions in the few years she has had responsibility for our libraries? GCC based their plans for brutal cuts on a needs analysis dating from 5 years ago.

When the severity of the book budget cuts were first reported back in 2010 in the Gloucestershire Echo, editor Kevan Blackadder quite rightly warned;

“this one-off saving at a difficult time should not be the start of our library service being undermined”.

This saving was not a “one off” and our library service is “being undermined”. Gloucestershire Library Service was one of the lowest spending library authorities in the country and that was even BEFORE these drastic cuts.

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4 Responses to ‘Library loans plummet in county’ – a response

  1. Ells says:

    Well said! Back when I lived in Tetbury (around 3 years ago now), it was clear that the library did not have the budget it needed. Moving from Malmesbury, you could see a clear contrast – the library had a much smaller selection of books and much shorter opening hours than that of a town just over the border into Wiltshire, which has a very similar population and demographic.

    It’s very sad to see that this important service is being undermined. The smaller libraries seem to be taking the brunt of the cuts, but they are just as important (or even more so) than the larger libraries in the area as they serve more isolated communities.

  2. Pingback: Friends of Gloucestershire respond on library loans | Alan Gibbons’ Blog

  3. Helena Petre says:

    I am no longer able to use Nailsworth library, as it is not open any more when I am there. I miss it, but have made a policy of ordering as many books as I can from the library over the past few months. So far I have managed to order the entire back catalogue of a particular author, minus just one book. I am self employed and do not receive any benefits,. and therefore I am financially limited in the number of books I can buy online. Charity shops don’t always have the books I want. I don’t drive so I can’t travel widely in search of books. I worked in a new bookshop for seven years, and found that many people, particularly in the over-50 age group, don’t have internet access, or can’t use the internet. Many do not want to. I even tried to teach one or two (in my spare time) how to buy second hand books from Abe or Amazon, but the learning curve was too steep and their distrust of ‘modern technology’ great. I had to give up on that. The brave new world of e-books and downloadable audio content that is instantly available will not benefit a huge number of service users. It hardly benefits those of use who are tech-literate, if we can’t afford e-readers, or don’t want to listen to novels aimed at mostly at the teenage or ‘chick lit’ market. No wonder loans are down, when buying is down, and human beings have been replaced by self-service counters.

  4. Alistair Fisher says:

    I really Think this world is a sad place relying on technology with use of things that the average person in the street cant afford for example a computer or an E book. how this will help the elderly in homes or peoplein rural villages by shutting of there supply of books i do not know, but of course not being apolitician i am not supposed to know these things. I am just a simple person with quite a good standard of intelligence, but not as bright as the fools who decide our fate. Ot seems now te only way to get a book is commit a crime as the prisons all have books, but are funded by a different part. Now i am not saying prisoners should not have books al I say isnt it fair we should all have access to knowledge or do we have to commit crimes

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