"Catastrophic" drop in Lewisham library lending

Publishing industry title The Bookseller reports a "catastrophic" drop in the number of books being lent by Lewisham's free libraries, including Crofton Park. The report, based on figures obtained by Cllr Christine Best, says:

Borrowing figures for October 2011 show Grove Park community library making just 722 loans during that month this year compared to 3,764 in October 2010, a mere 16% of its previous year's total. New Cross library saw just 458 issues this October compared with 2,770 in October last year; Sydenham library totalled 1,326 loans this October compared with 4,035 in the same month last year. Crofton Park library saw the best result, lending 2,836 times this October, 44% of its total of 6,036 in October 2010. Blackheath Village library saw the worst result, lending just 572 books in October this year, a mere 12% of the previous October's total of 5,044.

These figures could be the result of early teething problems experienced by the libraries in terms of back-end systems and access to books, the publicity around their possible closure may also have led to a short-term drop in users and the figures do not reflect the other valuable activities which the libraries have been supporting, but nonetheless it is a worrying result, given that it is the libraries' core function.

Cllr Best commented:

"There have been some initial difficulties with data collection from the community libraries, and the service overall has had a difficult year, completing a major staff reorganisation and the introduction of new technologies. The implementation of such major change has had a negative impact on performance, but the service is confident that both issues and visits will now begin to increase."

The Bookseller runs a campaign called Fight For Libraries.