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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 January, 2005, 07:17 GMT
Library borrowing still declining
Books
The number of people borrowing from libraries is still falling
Library borrowing continued to decline last year as Scottish councils again failed to meet their own targets for new books.

New Audit Scotland figures, released on Thursday, show the number of items borrowed, including books and audio tapes, fell by over 1.5m.

The report also highlighted the changing role of public libraries.

Almost 300,000 Scots used learning centres and accessed computer terminals in libraries last year.

The amount of borrowing in the financial year 2003/04 fell by 4.7% from the previous year to 32.5 million.

While the number of Scots borrowing dipped only slightly from the previous year - to just over 1.2 million - they took out fewer items, on average 27 each, over the 12 months.

Computer facilities

Ten years ago the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) recommended that councils should annually add 280 new items for adults for every 1,000 people in their area.

For children and teenagers the target for new books and audio materials was 100 items per 1,000 population.

But the Audit Scotland report, prepared for the Accounts Commission, stated: "Councils have failed to meet the national targets for additions to lending stock every year since the targets were established in 1995."

Clackmannanshire was the only council to meet the target for adult lending stock while it also met the recommended number of additions for children and teenage books along with Orkney and Stirling.

The report also showed that just over 287,000 people, representing about 7.2% of the population, used learning centres and computer facilities in libraries in 2003/04.

'Vicious circle'

Accounts Commission Chairman Alastair MacNish said the report highlighted changes to libraries' traditional role.

He said: "While fewer people are borrowing fewer items, there has been a move to other library services such as the use of learning centres and computer terminals to access information."

Edinburgh International Book Festival Director Catherine Lockerbie expressed concern at a "vicious circle" of councils providing fewer books and the public borrowing less frequently.

She said: "It is obviously a matter of concern that the core business of libraries - books - appears to be in decline."

However, she added that the audience for the book festival has increased by 107% in four years.

'Libraries are adapting'

Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Patricia Ferguson said: "Although the report shows the number of people using libraries has remained steady, unfortunately, fewer books are being borrowed.

"However, libraries are adapting to changing trends and offering more services to the public, such as the use of learning centres and computer terminals to access information."

She added that she was "particularly encouraged" by the number of people using council swimming pools and sports facilities - up by half a million from 2002/03.

Cosla said the report showed that councils were adapting their services to meet the needs of users, while the library figures did not show "the whole picture".

Councillor Graham Garvie, Cosla's arts and leisure spokesman, said: " It may be that a much more useful figure than the numbers of books being borrowed would be to record the actual numbers coming through the library door, the purpose of the visit and the benefit gained."




SEE ALSO:
Library borrowing drops again
05 Feb 04 |  Scotland
Warning over libraries' fate
28 Jan 00 |  Scotland


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