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Books - 'the raison d'etre for libraries'

30 May 2005

'Libraries' biggest problem is the neglect of their core area: books. The public library service now holds fewer than two copies for every UK resident, and spends just 9p in the pound on books. These are shameful figures. Tired and poorly selected stock inevitably leads to fewer loans. About 561 million books were borrowed from libraries in 1992-93, but 10 years later the figure was 361 million. Barely one loan is made per visit. On this evidence alone libraries are failing the public...

But reading remains libraries' most important activity, and more needs to be done to put books back at their centre. Providing internet access is useful, but books are the raison d'etre for libraries. In the foreseeable future almost every home will be online, but how many will possess the thousands of books a library holds?'

The Bookseller editorial