Children’s use of public libraries in the UK declines significantly

Children’s use of public libraries in the UK declines significantly

This looks like a trend, not a fluke.

According to this

Department of Culture Media & Sport report

called “Taking Part 2014/15 Annual Child Report”, there have been significant declines in children in the UK using public libraries.

Here’s one of the stats:

“70 per cent of children aged 5-15 had visited a library in the last 12 months, a significant decrease on the 2008/09 figure of 75 per cent, and a similar proportion to 2013/14.”

5% may not seem like a lot, but that’s a big chunk.

Reading through the report, there are quite a few negative indicators.


The Guardian article

indicates that the number of public libraries during this period had fallen by 286, going from 3,428 to 3,142. What’s that percentage change? About 8.5%.

That may be the factor…there may simply have been fewer libraries for them to visit.

That’s good in the sense that it suggests that children don’t want to read any less than they did before.

It’s potentially bad, though, because they have fewer opportunities to do so.

That same article has a cartoon by England’s Children’s Laureate supporting libraries.

I’m a big believer in public libraries. I’ve said before that if the choice is between keeping schools open, or keeping public libraries (with literacy teachers in them and librarians) open, I’m going with the libraries.

I think “free range reading” is hugely important. I’m sure I’ve benefited by reading books from public libraries to which I would never have been guided in a school.

Now, it is possible that children are, to some extent, reading from other places. E-books could be part of that…free public domain titles, and yes,

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and other “subsers” (subscription services).

I’m not finding clear recent data for  the USA for number of  libraries…although I have several sources indicating a reduction in budgets.

What do you think? Are children reading less? How important are public libraries? How good an indicator are they of children’s reading engagement? Did you ever read a book from a public library that you are sure you wouldn’t gotten in school? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


2 Responses to “Children’s use of public libraries in the UK declines significantly”

  1. Edward Boyhan Says:

    This is not a surprise to me — nor do I think it is necessarily a bad thing. There are many things these days competing for the attention/imagination of our children — some of which (like ebooks) don’t require library access. Also some of those other attention grabbers may have pedagogical impacts better than what can be delivered by a book (yeah, heresy I know :grin).

    Learning to read is hard — in some languages (like Japanese) it can take up to twice as long to be a proficient reader than in English. I sometimes wonder if technology might not provide better ways to teach our children about all that we know, and what our important cultural standards might be. Quirky marks (alphabets or ideographs) may not be the best way to feed information down the high speed highway that is our visual system.

    Everywhere I go whether it be to my old college or to numerous public libraries around the country, I find librarians madly scurrying to re-imagine what a library might be — in many cases these re-imaginings have little to do with books. I predict that in a decade or two community libraries will be gone — lost to ever shrinking municipal budget pressures.

    Large research libraries like the British Library, the Library of Congress, the Bodelian at Oxford, and other select university libraries will remain.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      Well, there are certainly some interesting ideas there! I have a little different take on “community libraries”…they have been evolving for some times, and in a decade or two, they may not include p-books (paperbooks)…but I think many of those same locations will still be serving the community with information.

      One role will be to bridge the digital divide. I work with people who work with people who are likely to not have a stable home situation. Those people, not uncommonly, do not have phone numbers…but they do have e-mail addresses. You can go into any public library in the USA and get and send e-mail. In a much broader way, I think that’s a place for them. Might be the only place many people can get an exam through virtual reality, for example. 🙂

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