Sunday, September 24, 2006

Trouble in the UK

Courtesy of Norm Geras comes this troubling account of the state of public libraries in the UK:

1) The minister for libraries has no power to administer libraries--this is handled by local authorities; 2) Expenditure on books has fallen from 14.4% to 8.5% of the budget over the past decade; 3) The collection has been reduced in the same period by 20 million books; 4) 100 libraries have been threatened with closure this year; 5) 1,000 library buildings in England are no longer fit for use (30% of the total); 6) The Museums, Libraries & Archives Council has spent £4m on various consultants since it was formed; 7) Libraries are chronically short of books, and those with poor stock fail to attract users; and 8) In spite of words to the contrary, the government and the MLA seem bent on turning libraries into community centres, outreach posts, and IT training camps.

I also learned that the annual UK public library book acquisition budget is £90m, the cost of "selectors" is £45m, the cost of acquisition processes is £200m, and the annual revenue and capital cost of the library service is £1.3bn. During the past decade, overhead costs have risen by 5% p.a.; book purchasing has fallen at the same rate. In short, public libraries are in crisis.


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