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More Youngsters Using Libraries

Wales is one of the only places in the UK to see an overall rise in library use in last five years.

More young people in Wales are now using public libraries than they were five years ago, according to a major new study published on the Monday 10th April by the Carnegie UK Trust which reveals trends in library use across the UK and Ireland.   

The research reveals that more than half (51%) of all 15-24 year olds now use public libraries in Wales, an increase of nine percentage points since 2011.

Meanwhile more than half of 25-34 year olds are also now using public libraries. 

Overall, there has been a slight increase in public library use in Wales from 45% to 46% between 2011 and 2016.

Across the other UK nations, Northern Ireland has also seen its library use go up, but there have been declines in England and Scotland.

Alongside the growth in library usage amongst young people in Wales, there has also been a significant jump in library use is amongst households with pre-schoolers (0-4 years) and primary-aged children (5-11 years).

The number of households with pre-schoolers using the library has risen by seven percentage points to 55% and those with primary children by three percentage points to 59%.

Library use among both the most and least deprived socio-economic groups has also increased in Wales over the last five years*. 

These trends are good news for Welsh public libraries.

However, the Carnegie UK Trust's research also confirms that libraries across the UK and Ireland face a number of significant challenges, including a steady decline in the number of 'frequent' library users, a pattern which is particularly prominent in Wales.

Martyn Evans, Chief Executive of Carnegie UK Trust says that libraries must make a persuasive case for continued investment in staff and services if they are to continue to meet the needs of local communities.

He said, "Public libraries remain an immensely popular civic resource, both in Wales and across the rest of the UK and it's extremely promising that there's been a rise in library use in Wales amongst households with pre-school and primary children, as well as young people. 

"However, we know that the future success of public libraries depends on how effectively they respond to the changing needs of their communities. Local authority budgets are under severe pressure.

"All of us who value libraries' rich and varied contribution to our wellbeing must provide clear and compelling evidence of their impact if future investment is to be secured.

"We also know that the public want libraries to do even more.

"People in Wales told us that they would be more likely to use the library if they could access more Council services there, if libraries held more events, and if they had better information about the activities on offer."

Kathryn Parry, Development Manager, The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) Wales, said, "We welcome the specific focus on public libraries in Wales in the 'Shining a Light' report alongside the wider picture for the rest of the UK.

"The Welsh Government has set a specific objective to target poverty and inequality in Wales, so it is really powerful to see genuine evidence of the vital role Librarians and Library assistants play in the lives of the most deprived socio-economic groups.

"We also welcome the news that public libraries' outreach and audience development programmes such as the Summer Reading Challenge and ECALM (Every Child a Library Member) are having a real effect in Wales.

"Librarians and Library assistants develop strong relationships with local schools, early year's professionals and parents to support literacy growth and communication both in Welsh and English at pre-school level and during the school holidays. 

"We are committed to building the evidence from 'Shining a Light' into our future planning, and to ensuring that we use this data to engage policymakers and secure ongoing support for our fantastic library network."

The 'Shining a Light' report is the result of a unique five year study by the Carnegie UK Trust and IPSOS Mori into public library use in the UK and Ireland

The report is the only one of its kind, enabling data on changing use and attitudes towards library services to be compared across the individual jurisdictions of the UK and Ireland. Around 10,000 face-to-face and telephone interviews were involved in total in 2011 and 2016 combined.

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