Council insists there are no plans to close libraries despite rise in use of online services

Huntingdon library

Huntingdon library - Credit: Archant

Cambridgeshire County Council says there are no plans to close the region’s libraries, despite an increase in people using online services.

In figures obtained via a Freedom of Information request, The Hunts Post found that between 2013 and 2014, some 166,551 books were loaned from Huntingdon Library.

From 2015 to 2016 though, this figure dropped by more than 30,000 books to just 132,709 that year, with picture books the most popular genre to be taken out since 2013.

Although the town’s library does not offer a eBook or e-Audio services, figures countywide suggest more people than ever are heading to the web to access their literary favourites.

Just 6,924 users downloaded an eBook between 2012 and 2013, compared to a massive 20,832 between 2015 and 2016.

The same can be said for audio books, with libraries who offer the service in Cambridgeshire reporting 17,062 downloaded between last year and 2015 alone.

Despite this, Cambridgeshire County Council, which runs the libraries, says there are no plans to close the buildings and move services totally online.

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“Cambridgeshire libraries have seen some changes in how people use their libraries over the last few years, but certainly none of that is suggesting that libraries will need to be smaller or move totally to online delivery,” a spokesman said.

“The number of visitors remains robust and with nearly 4,000 activities in a year to choose from, people continue to use their libraries for a range of different reasons.

“Regrettably Huntingdon Library had to reduce its opening hours this year, which has

affected visitor figures overall, but it remains a busy and popular library the rest of the week.

The spokesman added: “Some people are choosing to use our eBooks and eAudio services, so may be borrowing slightly fewer items from stock.

“With the availability of free wifi in all libraries, and the increase in personal ownership of internet-enabled devices, we are starting to see less demand on fixed PC bookings and use, whilst people are still keen to use the library for study space and

for getting online.

“With nearly two million issues of physical books over the last nine months, there is not a significant decline in use and it would seem very unlikely that public libraries will move their services to online only.”