CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Libraries are well used

The IFLA Library Map of the World shows that in the UK in 2018, there were 8.2 million registered public library users and that public libraries received 243.4 million physical visits. You can read more about the Library Map and how to use it to support your campaigning and advocacy here.

In Scotland, libraries are one of the most frequently used public services.

In 2018, a report published by the Scottish Government highlighted these key points about library usage:

  • 18% of respondents reported using the library at least once per week. No other cultural/recreational place came close to being used as frequently (p.253).
  • 35% of people reported using a library at least once per month, compared with only 20% of people who visited the cinema at least once each month. This suggests that people make use of and value truly free and openly accessible public spaces (p.253).

Libraries are not becoming obsolete. In fact, it is quite the opposite and visits to Scotland’s libraries continue to grow year on year in many areas of Scotland. There were 46.9 million visits to Scotland’s libraries recorded for the year 2016-2017, representing a 47% increase since 2010, the Ambition & Opportunity Public Library Strategy Refresh reports (p.4).  The following are examples of usage stats in certain Council areas:

  • The Glasgow Life Annual Report for 2018/2019 showed that Glasgow Libraries recorded 4.7 million visits (including 900,000 virtual visits) and loaned out almost 2.5 million books over 2018-2019.  There was also an increase of almost 20,000 in the number of children and teenage literature issued since last year, which rose to 682,000 (pp.19-20). This is extremely positive because we know that reading for pleasure is more important for a child’s educational achievement than their family’s wealth or social class.
  • In Dundee, there were 1,156,819 library visits in the year 2016/2017 (Leisure & Culture Dundee Year in Review 16/17, p.15).
  • High Life Highland (HLH) reported in March 2019 that in the past four years, visits to their libraries have increased from 2 million to 3.5 million (p.4). In the year 2018-2019, HLH libraries had 2,216,263 physical visits and 1,298,754 online visits. Overall, visits increased by 16.5% from the previous year, with an increase of 54,263 physical visits and 444,479 online ones (p.30).

In 2016, the Carnegie UK Trust published a report called ‘Shining a Light: Scottish data about attitudes to and use of public libraries 2011-2016‘. Some main points of interest from this report include:

  • In 2016, 1 in 2 people used libraries and of those who are library users, 1 in 2 are ‘frequent users’ (p.1).
  • Around two-fifths of people said that they felt libraries were important for them personally and over 3/4 of people said that they felt libraries were important for their community. When asked how important libraries were for the community, 33% described them as ‘essential’ and 43% described them as ‘very important’ (p.1). What this shows is that even where people do not need to use libraries themselves, they still value them and understand that they are important for others in their communities who do want or need to use them.
  • While there was support for the use of volunteers in libraries to add value to the services of paid staff, 82% of people were opposed to the use of volunteers to replace paid staff (p.10). This is strong evidence to use where there are proposals to make reductions to the number of paid, skilled, and trained staff employed in libraries. You might also find it useful to look at our statement on the Use of Volunteers.

We need to continue to support and fund libraries – a vital public service that a vast number of people in Scotland use every year. Most Councils will provide Annual Reports that include stats on library usage like the examples above. If you would like to find out numbers from your local area, we would recommend using a search engine and typing in the name of your council (if it has a separate ‘Culture’ branch use the name of that e.g. ‘Leisure & Culture Dundee’ instead of just ‘Dundee Council’) and ‘annual report’ or ‘annual review’.