Reference books cash to be cut in Portsmouth library shake-up

ON THE SHELF Libraries are feeling the pinch under council spending cuts
ON THE SHELF Libraries are feeling the pinch under council spending cuts
Chancellor Philip Hammond. Picture: Getty

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CASH spent on reference books at libraries is to be cut under new plans by city leaders.

Portsmouth City Council is to reduce annual spending on reference works from £50,000 to £30,000 – a cut of almost 70 per cent.

It says the move is being made partly because of a change in the way people search for information – often by using the internet.

The council’s overall budget of £371,000 a year on books and loan items for its other nine libraries will remain unchanged.

The council will spend more on fiction, which is most popular with library users.

Council leader for culture, Cllr Lee Hunt, said: ‘We’re not cutting spending, like many people around us are.

‘The budget for buying and maintaining our stocks is the same as it ever was. But times have been changing at our libraries.

‘First of all, we have worked hard to push up library memberships but it means we’re having to work even harder to make sure there are enough books people want to borrow.

‘But we’ve also seen a reduction in the number of people taking reference books out.

‘It’s because people can come to our libraries and access the internet, and there’s so much available there.’

John Sadden, a local historian who uses Portsmouth Central Library for research purposes, criticised the plans.

‘I can see the point that’s being made here, and it’s understandable,’ he said.

‘I don’t blame anyone in hard times trying to find a balance to keep as many people as possible happy.

‘But what about people who don’t have the internet at home, so aren’t familiar with it to use it at libraries?

‘I just think there should be both books and internet access on offer, to serve all users, regardless of age.’

Other cuts to library supplies will see spending on large print books drop from £16,000 to £15,000, spoken word books from £20,000 to £15,000, CDs from £12,000 to £5,000, DVDs from £22,000 to £15,000, and newspapers and journals from £20,000 to £14,000.

But expenditure on adult fiction will go up from £75,000 to £95,000, adult non-fiction from £76,000 to £80,000, and children’s books from £41,000 to £62,000.

For the first time, the council will spend £8,000 on audiobook downloads, and £15,000 on e-books for digital book readers.