It’s that time of year again… the always-awful national statistics collected by CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy). And as always, people are weighing in with their interpretations. Here’s ours…

Yes, the national picture is worse. But is that so very surprising? Spending has dropped (as usual), this time by 2.6%, or almost £20m. 

Professional staff numbers are down by a neatly-matching 2.4%. Service points fell from 3,685 to 3,667.

Scarily, visits are down by more – 5% – though at 214,624,452 it’s still a very big figure. Online ‘visits’ were up by 12 million (131 million total in 2019-20). That’s a very healthy trend.

A total of 165,885,367 books were issued, compared with 174,695,508  in 2018-19. There were 7.3 million ‘active borrowers’. That’s another big figure, which deserves a big voice.  

Councils may be looking to dump more services on to volunteers, as yet more painful cuts bite. They might note the latest trend: there are fewer volunteers now (50,128, compared to 51,478 in 2018-19) and they are having to work harder (1,841,776 hours compared to 1,816,425). Not exactly a sign of sustainability, is it?

Rob Whiteman, CIPFA CEO (pictured) rightly says: ‘The steep drop in spending on British libraries is further evidence that local authorities continue to have to do more with less – and this is having a significant impact on resources that are vital to our local communities.’


NOTE no 1: these figures are, as always, way out of date. They go up only to the end of March 2020. So they miss everything that happened during lockdown and later, including the spectacular rise in online visits. Read about it in TLC magazine no 100, on this website.

NOTE no 2: the figures are, as always, national. They don’t highlight regional variations. This is a  tragedy. The vast jungle of stats collected by CIPFA are never analysed to find out which services are doing well, which badly – and why. A student on a 4-week placement found out a heap of useful info, including 31 services that increased visits and 10 that increased book issues – despite cuts. See TLC magazine no 97, on this website. What a wasted opportunity to find out how to reverse the decline that always hits the headlines!

More statistics:

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