Library closures go ahead despite big visitor numbers

Burnley Central Library
Burnley Central Library

Lancashire County Council will have no choice but to press ahead with library closures despite figures showing Burnley’s libraries were visited 368,716 times in 2015.

Statistics show Burnley Central Library was visited 159,138 times last year while people went through the doors of the town’s campus library on a total of 79,657 occasions.

Burnley Campus.

Burnley Campus.

There were 48,895 visits recorded at Coal Clough Library, Padiham registered 46,408 visits while 14,942 were clocked as visiting Rosegrove, 10,372 at Briercliffe and 9,304 at Pike Hill.

Lancashire County Council has proposed closing 40 of the 74 libraries it operates.

County Coun. Marcus Johnstone, a member of the cabinet at County Hall, says a decision will be made next month on which libraries are to close but the decision to close any of them is regrettable.

He said: “Although there were 368,000 visits last year to libraries, that clearly isn’t 368,000 different people visiting, there may be one person visiting 100 times.

It isn’t something we want to do, but the money simply isn’t there to keep them open

County Coun. Marcus Johnstone

“There are other issues such as the fact more people are using Ebooks and the changing ways books and services are accessed.

“As for the closures, we will be making a decision on May 12th and that will go out to public consultation before a final decision is made in September.

“As a county council, we are having to make savings of well over £500m. in total and it is down to these savings that libraries will close. It isn’t something we want to do, but the money simply isn’t there to keep them open.

“I think libraries are an important social venue for many people and for some it will be an enormous loss which is why there is no desire to do it.”

Ahead of the county council’s property review, Burnley was split into three service areas and the county council is proposing to retain one library per service area.

According to County Coun. Johnstone, this will be set against a backdrop of an deprivation index with the most deprived areas having more chance of libraries being kept open, and that the most deprived area is in Burnley.

He said: “The final decision is up in the air, but that is the principle we will be working to.”

A spokesman for the county council added: “In terms of footfall, the numbers show that a large number of people continue to use libraries.

“There is a trend that does show in recent years that although, still high, the figure is decreasing.

“However, that is coupled with an increase in numbers of people using the Ebook service and those numbers are rising.

“Whichever way people are choosing to use them, libraries are continuing to be well used.”