Systemic Barriers to Library Use Libraries Engage the Socially Excluded by John Pateman

Systemic Barriers to Library Use: Libraries Engage the Socially Excluded

By John Pateman

Success story or terminal decline, inclusive or exclusive – any of these labels can be attached to public libraries in the UK, depending on which set of statistics you use. On the positive side, UK residents made 340 million visits to public libraries in 2004/05, which is equivalent to 5.7 visits per person. That’s more people than go to football matches each year, or than visit the UK’s top 20 tourist attractions put together. After a period of decline, visits to libraries are on the up. They hosted 22 million more visits in 2004/05 than they did in 2001/02, an increase of 7%. Around 47% of the UK adult population are registered with their library, which is down on the previous high of 60%. Also, only 20% of people are active library users – members who have a library ticket and use it on a regular basis.

Over 330 million books were borrowed from UK libraries in 2004/05 – an average of 5.52 books per person. Children’s book borrowing rose from 86.8 million in 2003/04 to 88.6 million in 2004/05. But adult book borrowing has declined by more than 40% in the last decade, from 442.5 million in 1994/95 to 241.6 million in 2004/05. Libraries spent