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Readers are borrowing fewer library books - but why?

PUBLISHED: 15:00 18 June 2019 | UPDATED: 15:33 18 June 2019

The number of books being borrowed from Suffolk's libraries has dropped by 10% Picture: GETTYIMAGES/WAVEBREAK MEDIA

The number of books being borrowed from Suffolk's libraries has dropped by 10% Picture: GETTYIMAGES/WAVEBREAK MEDIA

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The number of books being loaned from Suffolk's libraries has dropped by almost 400,000 since 2014 - a decline of around 10%.

A freedom of information request sent to Suffolk County Council revealed that the number books loaned in the county has been steadily falling since 2014.

Data from 2014 shows that 3,101,969 books were taken out of Suffolk's libraries over a 12-month period compared to the 2,744,729 borrowed in 2018, a fall of almost 11%.

So far this year Suffolk Libraries has loaned 1,119,819 books, including a huge number of eBooks.

Bruce Leeke, chief executive of Suffolk Libraries, said there are a range of reasons as to why the numbers had dropped.

He said: "The decline in book lending is part of a national trend which is driven by a number of factors.

"These include the changing use of libraries, more choice from retailers and greater digital accessibility," said Mr Leeke.

"Lending in Suffolk has reduced at a slower rate than the national trend and has been countered by the huge growth in the number of eBooks Suffolk Libraries lends which is now around 200,000 per year.

"The fact that 2.7 million books are borrowed from our libraries every year shows there is still a huge demand across the county."

Bruce Leeke said that the decline followed a national trend  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNBruce Leeke said that the decline followed a national trend Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Encouraging Suffolk families to support their local library, he added: "Book lending is a huge part of what libraries have to offer with reading for pleasure providing many benefits and playing a crucial role in children's development.

"We've also recently removed overdue charges for children's books to encourage more families and children to use the library and borrow books.

"We're not complacent about book lending and Suffolk Libraries is always actively working to promote the wide range of titles on offer."

He continued: "All libraries have a 'Suffolk Loves' display where we promote popular and recommended books and many libraries have regular author events and reading groups which also drive the social side of books."

400,000 fewer books have been borrowed Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO400,000 fewer books have been borrowed Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

The fall follows data last year which revealed that the number of visits to Suffolk's libraries had also been dropping in recent years.

Aldeburgh, Hadleigh and Saxmundham saw the biggest fall in visitor numbers in the four years to 2018.

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At the time Suffolk Libraries said that it was monitoring the data and was working on different ways of bringing people in.

Library chiefs say the drop in borrowing is part of a national trend Picture: GETTYIMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTOLibrary chiefs say the drop in borrowing is part of a national trend Picture: GETTYIMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

What is Suffolk reading?

As well as showing how Suffolk's reading habits are changing data from the FOI also showed that a select group of authors have proved popular with Suffolk readers in the past five years.

The data tracked the top 5 books loaned out of Suffolk's libraries from the years 2014-2018 and also included data from January to May this year.

Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher books, was one of the top rated authors by Suffolk readers, appearing seven times in the data.

Also highly rated were authors Ian Rankin, Paula Hawkins and J K Rowling.

Children's books such as David Walliams' Awful Auntie also featured in the list.

Mr Leeke added: "It's clear that some authors and genres are extremely popular with Suffolk library users. Crime and thriller novels remain incredibly popular, with authors like Lee Child and Ian Rankin always featuring in the lists of most borrowed books.

"More recent books by JK Rowling (also writing as Robert Galbraith) have huge appeal.

"It's also good to see that titles by a local author, Elly Griffiths, are so popular as she's visited many of our libraries in recent years."

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