One of my predictions for 2015 was that British libraries were all going to close. So far that hasn’t come true, but it’s getting closer.
Of the 4612 British public libraries in 2010, about 7% have now closed. In the U.S., that percentage would mean closure of over 1100 libraries if you count branch locations, which is definitely something we’d notice.
In addition, “Some 216 static libraries and eight mobile libraries are a risk of closure, Labour claims.” If those closed, it would be about a 12% closure rate since 2010. The American equivalent would be over 1900 libraries.
Oh, and of the libraries left, “330 fewer are open 10 hours or more a week.” If the library isn’t open more than ten hours a week, it almost might as well be closed. Between the closures and the reduced service hours, that’s about 14% of British public libraries that have been closed or made significantly less useful.
Naturally, if libraries are closed, people can’t visit them, which is why annual library visits have reduced by 40 million in the past few years. That’s a 12% reduction in four years, which is approximately the same as the closure and reduced hours rate. Purely a coincidence, I’m sure.
And the “numbers of visits have fallen sharpest – by 21% – in deprived areas,” because of course they have. A good way to make sure the poor stay poor is to make it as hard as possible for them to learn anything.
Since the British government seems to have declared a war on public libraries, it’ll probably use that statistic to close even more libraries. After all, 40 million fewer visits means that people don’t want to use libraries as much.
And if people don’t want to use libraries as much, that must mean that more libraries can be closed. It’ll start a perpetual cycle where the only public library left in the U.K. will be the British Library, and it will only be open every other Wednesday from 10-11am.
It’s sort of bizarre from a distance to watch an otherwise developed country just start giving up on public libraries. In the U.S., people are still visiting libraries, at a rate of 5.1 visits per capita per year, and few libraries have closed despite the flat or decreasing funding in half the country.
The British per capita visit ratio was about the same until the libraries started closing, so it’s not like they weren’t being used.
Strange times over there. I hope the same thing doesn’t happen over here.