Libraries across some parts of the country have seen an increase in newly registered users of more than 600 per cent since lockdown measures were introduced, the Local Government Association reveals today.
All council-owned libraries have closed because of the coronavirus outbreak but residents are still able to access digital library resources.
Councils are providing additional online access to resources under the hashtag #LibrariesFromHome, extending online memberships for no extra fee, and all fines incurred as a result of the closures will be waived.
As a result there has been a boom in new digital users. For example, Hampshire County Council has seen a 770 per cent increase in new digital users, Cornwall Council a 630 per cent increase and Hertfordshire County Council an increase of 332 per cent.
The LGA, which represents councils across England, says many libraries are restricted in the number of e-books and audio books they can provide for their residents because of licensing limits with publishers.
It is calling on the Government and publishers to work together to unlock an additional £5 million in investment to enable libraries to increase their capacity in loaning more e-books and audiobooks.
In the short term, publishers could also offer increased flexibilities on the price of e-materials to increase choice for customers and reflect the current need and demand from communities for reading material.
The LGA says the extra funding and flexibility would increase access to reading materials and will help to improve residents’ wellbeing and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety during this difficult time.
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Chair of the LGA’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board, said:
“The number of people registering to use digital library services across some parts of the country has rocketed.
“Council libraries provide a vital service for residents and act as community hubs in normal times. Their online digital contribution has now become equally important as people turn to them as a way to help pass the time at home.
“Councils are doing everything they can to protect their residents’ wellbeing during this difficult time. Extra funding would help libraries extend their licences and meet this growing demand.”
The LGA is constantly liaising with Public Health England and the Government regarding the evolving situation with the outbreak of the coronavirus, raising issues on behalf of our member councils. Our online hub features the latest Covid-19 information for councils and is regularly updated.
LGA spokespeople are available for interview.