Figures show fewer books are being borrowed in libraries across Hampshire

Children enjoying the library
Children enjoying the library
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LIBRARIES have seen a decrease in the number of people borrowing books, figures have shown.

A Freedom of Information Act request by Highbury College’s journalism course to Hampshire County Council revealed more than 300,000 fewer books were borrowed from libraries across the area in the past two years.

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 less books at Fareham library, in the town centre, 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.

But Councillor Andrew Gibson, executive member for culture, recreation and countryside called the findings ‘misleading’.

He said: ‘Our strategy at the moment is very clear.

‘Libraries are being closed by lots of administrations and our administration is bucking the trend.

‘When you say “are people taking out more books?”, we haven’t seen the slump there is in the rest of the country.’

Cllr Gibson said the council’s policy was to invest in more technology, such as computers and tablets, to encourage people to use the service more.

He added: ‘With technology and as technology improves – because it never stands still – clearly libraries are going to be continuously in decline simply because of the technology.’

Cllr Gibson said the council had invested in E-books which have proven popular with readers and the figures did not include them.

‘E-books is where we are putting most of our investments and that’s gone up quite dramatically,’ he said.

A request for this information has been submitted to the council.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Peter Chegwyn, who sits on the culture and communities select committee, said because of spending cuts library budgets have been hit.

He said: ‘In my view we must keep the libraries open.’

Cllr Chegwyn welcomed the idea of making the libraries more community-led and is happy for the council to ‘embrace modern technology’.

He added: ‘Anything that encourages people into libraries is welcomed in my view. But it must not be at the expense of a traditional library service which library users greatly value and want to continue.’

The FOI request also revealed Hampshire County Council has spent more than £1m on new books in the last year. This includes the purchase of E-books.