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Library use is on the rise for first time in 14 years
TRIPS to the library and book borrowing in Hampshire are both on the increase for the first time in 14 years, the latest figures show.
The number of books borrowed at 51 county-run libraries is up by 4 per cent to 6.7 million in 2011-12 compared with the previous 12 months. And the number of visitors has also increased by 2 per cent to 6.4 million over the same period - showing trips to the library are not a thing of the past.
Children are behind the rise in borrowing. Statistics supplied by the local authority showed the number of children's books taken out from libraries across the county increased by 15 per cent over the last year, to 2.4 million.
By comparison, books borrowed by adults showed no change at 4.3 million.
The rise in borrowing comes despite the council re-instating fines for the late return of children's books in September 2011 which critics said could put youngsters off reading.
However county chiefs said the aim was to encourage the prompt return of library books so there were more titles on shelves to borrow.
Figures also show the number of E-books issued increased from 31,927 in 2010-11 to 53,276 in 2011-12.
Winchester Discovery Centre retains its crown as the county's most successful library with nearly half a million people through its doors over the last year and 384,000 items borrowed.
County chiefs say there are a number of possible reasons for the increase in visits and book borrowing, including a major refurbishment programme of library buildings and development of online services.
Other possible explanations include the recession as books and internet services are provided free of charge. In addition, libraries have hosted activities to appeal to all ages ranging from baby rhyme times to reading groups and from CV writing workshops to knitting groups. Culture and recreation boss Councillor Keith Chapman said the rise in borrowing and visits had been achieved “against all odds.” For the last two years, the library service has faced major cuts in its budget, resulting in job losses, less money for new books and reduced opening hours at many branches. The Tory council boss said: “We hope that our continuous efforts to ensure that our libraries and discovery centres offer good quality and up-to-date facilities and services will result in even better figures in 2012-13.”