The UK had 201 fewer libraries in 2011/12 than the previous year, a drop of 4.5% on the total of 4,466 in the financial year 2010/11.
Visitor numbers to physical premises and to library websites were also down, falling year-on-year by 2.4% and 14.4% respectively.
The figures, published by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, also showed that 287,505 books were issued by libraries across the UK, down 4.2% on the figure for 2010/11.
Different types of literature fared differently, with more children’s fiction books taken out in 2011/12 than in the previous year, but falls for children’s non-fiction (-3.4%) and adult fiction (-5,4%) and non-fiction (-7.3%).
Issues of music dropped by 22.5%, and have now halved in just four years. Across audio, visual and electronic materials as a whole (including e-books), issues declined by 10.3%.
Staffing patterns also showed significant change, with volunteers outnumbering their paid counterparts for the first time. 23,397 volunteers worked at UK libraries in 2011/12, compared to 31,780 paid staff (using full time equivalents).
From a financial perspective, net expenditure on the UK library service – which is funded predominantly by local authorities – fell by 5.1%, and is forecast to drop by a further 4.8% in the current financial year.
UK libraries’ costs are still projected to outweigh revenues by m in 2012/13, but this would represent a drop below the bn mark for the first time in over seven years.
Libraries in the North East of England saw net expenditure drop by 12.7% – a bigger fall than in any other region – while net spend on libraries in Northern Ireland actually increased by 0.2%.
The data also included figures on individual library performance, where the Norfolk & Norwich Millennium library came out on top in terms of both visits and issues of material during 2011/12.
Birmingham Central and Croydon Central were second and third respectively in visitor terms, while university towns featured heavily in the upper rankings by material issued. Oxford Central (2nd), Cambridge Central (4th) and Cardiff Central (5th) all placed in the top five.
The following table contains a summary of the key UK-wide performance measures, while more detailed data can be found by clicking the link below.
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