There was an article in yesterday's Telegraph about the decline in library usage in the UK.
The number of adults using public libraries at least once a year has fallen from 48.2 per cent in 2005/06 to just 39.4 per cent in 2009/10 according to Government statistics.
The number of people who visit a library on a weekly basis has dropped by 32 per cent in five years to just 5.4 per cent.
The numbers feel shockingly low, but without something to compare them to you can't tell if they're normal, high, low, or whatever. So I went digging, and I found the press release an ALA (American Library Association) survey from January. Yes it's a little old, but the numbers shouldn't have changed that much in only 7 months.
Sixty-five percent of the respondents in a Harris Interactive nationwide poll conducted in January 2010 said they had used their public library either in person or by telephone or computer in the past year. That represents an astonishing 151.4 million Americans.
The ALA survey doesn't have the same nitty gritty details of the UK numbers (which are based on statistics). But I did notice this one detail about the survey, and it made me worry about the UK libraries:
The data from the 2010 Harris Interactive poll are powerful evidence for what has already been recognized as a decade-long trend in library use, for public libraries have seen a steady increase in use over the past 10 years, with patrons accessing “an incredible range of information resources and programs across the country,” according to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Public Libraries Survey report for fiscal 2007, issued in June 2009. Not surprisingly, news reports suggested that public library use was even more pronounced in the first half of 2009 because of the recession, the IMLS said in a press release.
Library use in the US is increasing whil in the UK it's declining. Now that's scary.