LIBRARIES across the Capital are continuing to thrive despite budget cuts and technological change, a new study has revealed.
Figures show the total number of occasions on which services were accessed rose four per cent to 12.2 million in 2014-15, with visits up two per ent to over 3.4m.
And attendance at special events has soared 16 per cent as the range of activities held at Edinburgh’s public libraries – which now includes community food schemes and digital skills classes – continues to expand.
Growth has also come amid intensifying financial pressure, with opening hours reduced and six libraries closing their doors on Sunday afternoons as part of the city council’s 2015-16 budget-setting process.
Community leaders have welcomed fresh evidence of libraries’ rising popularity and said staff had successfully reinvented them as online centres for residents who would otherwise struggle to access new technology.
Ken Swinney, secretary at Corstorphine Community Council, said: “I would certainly say that Corstorphine Library is well-used – people here appreciate it.
“The library is in a good spot and it’s handy for people. From that point of view, no-one could complain about it at all. And in the time I’ve been going, they’ve introduced a children’s section – a corner where kids go in with their parents and sit down to look at books.
“But also the computers there seem to be doing quite well. People go in – I suppose it would be for the web and for their own interests, if they don’t have a computer at home.”
The latest data comes as library managers work to achieve aims set out in Edinburgh’s Next Generation Library Strategy 2012–2015, which was based on a public consultation involving residents and staff.
Key objectives include investment to ensure libraries are fit for purpose and the introduction of programmes aimed at boosting digital as well as literacy skills.
City leaders said they were “delighted” at news of continued growth in libraries’ use and popularity.
Councillor Richard Lewis, culture and sport leader, said: “Our libraries are fantastic, inclusive facilities that can be enjoyed by all ages and backgrounds. They cater for all, whether you want to borrow books or read newspapers, or if you’d rather play computer games or take your children to a rhyme time session. Best of all, these services are either free or at a very low cost.”
He added: “We will keep delivering on the objectives of the strategy, so that we can continue to develop the diversity of services provided by libraries.”
The Capital has 28 public library buildings, a mobile library and outreach services for looked-after children, hospitals, care homes, and prisoners at HMP Edinburgh.