Library visitors across Northamptonshire drop by 62,000 in two years

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A report on Northamptonshire’s 36 libraries has shown that visitor numbers are falling in all but seven compared with two years ago.

The declining visitor numbers have been outlined in a mid-term review of every library, which examined visitor numbers in March 2013 compared with March 2011.

There were 266,795 visits during March two years ago, which fell by 62,295 to 204,500 this year.

But Northamptonshire County Council says the fall in people going into libraries is balanced by around 15,000 ‘virtual visits’ every month, where people use library services online.

Councillor Heather Smith (Con, Prebendal), cabinet member for customer and community services, said: “Libraries are definitely changing and moving away from the traditional way of going in to borrow a book.

“When I go on holiday now, I download books instead of going in to the library to pick them up.”

The ‘virtual visits’ include a new service which enables people to download library books onto a tablet computer without visiting a branch.

The number of virtual visits is expected to grow to one million by March 2016.

The review was presented at a meeting of the children, learning and communities scrutiny committee at County Hall yesterday.

The meeting heard the library service also ran 4,728 events last year, which were attended by 95,398 people.

Services include running 600 events for cash-strapped families, running 18 job clubs, two credit unions and helping 603 people set up in business.

Sue Grace, assistant director of customer and community services for the county council, said: “We know we are cost effective and we have broadened the range of our services.”

Before they won the local elections in May this year, the Conservative party at County Hall pledged to keep all 36 of Northamptonshire’s libraries open.