The fight to keep libraries open has dominated the headlines but the UK has quietly lost more than 200 branches over the past year, according to a detailed national survey.
The rate of library closures has increased, reveals the annual report from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy: 146 branches closed between 2010 and 2011, with the number stepping up to 201 this year. The UK now has 4,265 libraries, compared with 4,612 two years ago, and the number of closures is likely to grow. Campaigners in Newcastle are currently fighting plans to close 10 out of the city’s 18 libraries, with Billy Elliot playwright Lee Hall calling on the council to protect the city’s heritage last month.
“Working men and women in the north-east have fought, generation after generation, for the right to read and grow intellectually, culturally and socially – to be as ‘civilised’ as anyone else,” Hall said. “It is a heritage that took decades and decades to come to fruition but will be wiped out in a moment. You are not only about to make philistines of yourselves, but philistines of us all.”