COMMENT: So important to keep books available for borrowing

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Aren’t libraries a wonderful thing? Places packed with books of all kinds and music of all tastes that you can borrow free of charge as long as you take them back in good time.

They’ve been part of our communities down the generations, a familiar hub of learning and entertainment that caters for everyone from young children to the elderly.

But for how much longer? The reality is that in the technological age, fewer people are borrowing books.

We report today how a Freedom of Information Act request to Hampshire County Council has revealed that the number of books loaned from libraries across this area in the past two years has gone down by more than 300,000.

Of libraries in The News’ patch, covering Gosport, Havant and Fareham, only Stubbington library saw more people taking out books.

All 13 others saw a decrease, ranging from 51,807 fewer books at Fareham library to 586 fewer in Horndean. Stubbington saw 1,919 more books borrowed.

Across the county 42 out of its 48 libraries saw a reduction in book borrowing between 2015 and 2017.

So what are we to deduce from these figures? Apart from the anomaly of Stubbington, libraries clearly face a challenge to keep numbers up and remain relevant in a world of Kindles, smartphones and tablets.

Libraries need to move with the times, investing in technology and responding to trends by increasing the number of E-books.

But that takes money and the worry is that some cash-strapped councils will instead admit defeat and decide to close down libraries instead.

We really hope Hampshire continues to buck that trend and, despite budgetary pressures, keeps books available to all who still want to read them.