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It's been a bittersweet week for UK libraries




Perhaps there’s now a need for industry-wide cooperation to help stem the tide of decline in our libraries


The last few days have been bittersweet if, like us, you follow news from the world of libraries (it's not just us, right?).

We’ll start with a lovely story concerning the recent return of a book borrowed from Hereford Cathedral School in the 1890s – it was an impressive 120 years overdue.

It turns out that the book – The Microscope and its Revelations – was borrowed by pupil Arthur Boycott, who was presumably so immersed in its text that he clean forgot to take it back (it definitely wasn’t stolen, of course).

In his study it sat until Boycott’s granddaughter stumbled across it during a big clear out and took it upon herself to return the book to its rightful place on the shelves at the school library.

While (luckily for Boycott’s granddaughter) the school doesn’t fine pupils for the late return of books, the local Hereford public library hits forgetful borrowers with a punitive 17p a day fine – which would have amounted to £7,446 in this case…

…A source of income that public libraries would merrily take given this week’s revelation that their collective budgets were reduced by a whopping £25 million in the year to March.

The subject of funding in these times of austerity is something we’ve touched on before in this newsletter, but now we have some data to back up the concerns.

According to the the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa), library expenditure fell from £944m to £919m during the period, while visitor numbers fell by 15 million and the number of open libraries fell to a 10 year low following 121 closures.

Sobering stuff. And with the financial pressures on local government likely to continues for some time, it’s an issue that’s not going away.

If there’s a slither of hope, it’s in initiatives like the Libraries Deliver report, which has found £4m of government funding to help libraries in disadvantaged communities in England (only).

At Wordsworth Editions we offer a 25% discount to libraries (and other educational institutions), so hopefully that helps in some small way – but perhaps there’s now a need for industry-wide cooperation to help stem the tide of decline in our libraries.

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