Norfolk & Norwich Millennium library has emerged as the UK's most popular library for the seventh year running, with annual library performance figures showing it clocked up 1.3 million visits in the year ending April 2013, more than any other library in the country.
In a sector beset by austerity-driven library closures, the Norfolk library service has "worked very hard to respond to the needs of library users and to stay relevant", head of libraries Jennifer Holland said. "Part of it is that we keep very well maintained book stocks, and listen to what people like to read, as well as embedding the library service at the heart of delivering council objectives on things like education and employment."
Next most-visited behind Norfolk & Norwich Millennium was Brighton Jubilee library, which counted a total of 974,890 visitors during the year, then Newcastle City library, at 927,831 visits.
The figures were compiled by CIPFA as part of its annual libraries survey, a report which collates a raft of library performance statistics on measures such as visits, book issues and staffing levels.
The list of the UK's top 20 most-visited libraries picks out the bright spots in a sector facing an unprecedented level of funding cuts, with official figures showing an overall picture of decline in national library services.
The total number of libraries and mobile lending points dropped by 71, down 1.7%, to 4,194 on a yearly basis. The number of visits to library premises fell 6%, the value of book stocks declined by 2.3%, and the number of books issued was down 8.6%. However, visits made to library websites jumped, up 25.2%.
Library campaigners criticised the figures for presenting an incomplete picture, with the largest metropolitan authority, Birmingham, among those not supplying figures. The city's flagship Library of Birmingham, which opened in September, cost £189m to build and has claimed to be Europe's largest library. It replaced the old 1970s Birmingham Central Library, which was second-most visited in 2012, recording 1,197,350 visits. The new library has been slammed for spending £1.2m on its its website, run by Capita Services Birmingham.
Norfolk & Norwich Millennium library was built in 2001 as part of The Forum, a project funded jointly by National Lottery money through the Millennium Commission, Norfolk County Council, Norwich City Council, and local businesses.
Holland said: "We have staff who are passionate about delivering library services, and we work closely with customers to develop events and procure book stock — it has got to be relevant to the people who use the library."
The Cipfa report showed a decline in total government spending on libraries of 4.5% to £1,048,949 during the year ending April, and estimated funding for the service in the year ending April 2014 is down 9.4% to £995,252.
Top 20 most-visited libraries (with local authorities)
1. Norfolk & Norwich Millennium (Norfolk) 1,273,416
2. Brighton Jubilee (Brighton & Hove) 974,890
3. Newcastle City (Newcastle Upon Tyne) 927,831
4. Woolwich (Greenwich) 889,504
5. Croydon Central (Croydon) 882,144
6. Central Library Dundee (Dundee) 779,424
7. Cambridge Central (Cambridge) 778,492
8. Leeds Central (Leeds) 741,518
9. Hounslow library (Hounslow) 730,053
10. The Hive, Worcester (Wocestershire) 718,255
11. Chesterfield (Derbyshire) 717,471
12. Idea Store Whitechapel (Tower Hamlets) 694,210
13. Sheffield Central (Sheffield) 680,574
14. Mitchell Library (Glasgow) 639,571
15. Sutton (Sutton) 620,026
16. Colchester (Essex) 615,345
17. Wood Green (Haringey, London) 611,689
18. Huddersfield (Kirklees) 611,047
19. Barking Learning Centre (Barking & Dagenham) 581,799
20. Oldham (Oldham) 581,354Topics
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