Library visitor numbers in Stoke-on-Trent one of lowest in UK

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Stoke-on-Trent is almost bottom of the UK table for library visitor numbers, new figures show.

Statistics from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa), show the city’s libraries ranked 183rd out of 187 local authorities last year.

Stoke-on-Trent’s six council-funded libraries have 2,672 visits per 1,000 head of population compared to 4,358 visits per 1,000 population for England.

But Stoke-on-Trent City Council said the latest figures show its libraries dealt with more enquiries compared to the previous year.

Computer logins were up 15,601, and people actively using the library service was up by 1,956.

This is despite the number of people borrowing books going down, blamed on the growing use of the internet and e-books.

In recent years Stoke-on-Trent City Council has had to close three libraries – Fenton, Burslem and Trentham – to save cash, leaving just six funded by the local authority – Bentilee Library City, Central Library (Hanley)Longton LibraryMeir LibraryStoke Library and Tunstall Library.

Cabinet member for libraries Cllr Olwen Hamer said Stoke-on-Trent was fighting hard to keep its library services thriving as councils across the country are looking at closing theirs.

She added: “This city has been through tough economic times and people have had low expectations.

“Educational attainment has been low. But things are changing fast in this city.

“The city is growing and educational attainment is improving.

“People, particularly the young, are refusing to accept the past will dictate their future.

“People are going to libraries more often and starting to use the service more.

“They are positive about their ability to change their lives. That’s good news from any perspective.”

Ten volunteer-led libraries have opened across the Potteries.

These are located at Ball Green Methodist Church, Swan Bank Methodist Church, Burslem, Blurton Hub, Haywood Engineering Academy, Fenton Hub, St John’s Welcome Church in Abbey Hulton, Whitfield Valley Community Centre, Wallace Sport and Education Centre, Northwood Stadium and Trentham Mews Medical Centre.

Pauline Wood, 47, a council tenant in Stoke, said she uses the library every week when she pays her rent.

“The library in Stoke is great, especially as the housing office is located here as well.

“It always seems busy and I take books out as well as occasionally use the computers here because I don’t have one at home.”

The Local Government Association warned that up to £1.1billion will have to be diverted from libraries, museums and fixing potholes because of the cost of caring for the elderly.

The LGA said core government funding for 2015/16 was being cut by 8.8%.

LGA chairman David Sparks said councils were pulling out the stops to shield social care from the cuts.

He told StaffsLive: “The Government’s failure to properly fund the ever-growing cost of care is short-changing not just those who use and need it.”

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