Figures recently published by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accountants (CIPFA) confirm 'Better' libraries continuing to record some of the highest book issues and visits in the country – almost back to pre-pandemic levels.
Charitable social enterprise GLL operates libraries under the ‘Better’ brand for five local authorities in England in addition to running leisure services for over 40 local authorities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
For 2021-22, Better libraries made a strong showing in the capital - with the boroughs of Bromley (1,156,742 issues) and Wandsworth (1,156,730 issues) in 1st and 2nd position, closely followed by Greenwich in 4th (777,976 issues).
When visits per 1,000 population were measured, Greenwich topped the national table (4057.6) – with Bromley a creditable 7th (2238.9) and Wandsworth taking 12th spot (1799.7)
Woolwich Library had 547,440 customer visits – nationally, only Manchester Central Library had more – and Bromley snatched 9th place (209,703 visits).
Customers loved the free computers in Better libraries – Greenwich Borough libraries clocking up the highest usage in London (82,963 hours) – with Wandsworth 5th (50,581 hours) and Bromley 10th (38,093 hours).
Library visits have been driven by investment in IT – including PCs and print and scan services – and increased programming for young people, extended hours and the use of customer-friendly technology e.g. self issue and return.
Better Libraries provide traditional library loan services and also vital services to local communities through a wide programme including warm spaces, parent and toddler events, visiting author talks, local business start-up workshops and a range of exciting activities.
Better National Libraries Director Diana Edmonds MBE said:
“These great figures show the continued importance and relevance of public libraries at the heart of local communities for business and benefits support, study, entertainment or and just for the pleasure of reading.
“Alongside books, e-books and CDs – our libraries offer warm havens during winter months, free tea and coffee, WiFi and charging for portable devices.
“A well-used library is often the barometer for municipal success and I applaud our council partners for continuing to support public library services for the health and wellbeing of local communities.”
The recent Annual User Survey revealed a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 86% for library services operated under the Better brand showing how many people would recommend their library to a friend. Overall customer experience was rated as excellent (4.85 out of 5).
Social value calculations reveal that investment by local authorities of £1 in library services results in a return on investment of between £4.1 and £5.1, with an average of £4.38 ROI per £1. Better libraries returned total social value of £49m in 2022.
Better libraries are also leading the way as exemplars in greening public services through thoughtful and effective procurement, sharing services and retrofitting energy saving measures. The DCMS has acknowledged the reduction in energy use in Better libraries – more important than ever with the current utilities crisis.
And they play an important part in the levelling-up agenda too – partnering with Citizens’ Advice, adult learning and food banks to provide a wide range of tangible, practical help to those who need it.
Better Libraries have been very successful in bidding for grant funding from The Arts Council England, GLA, Heritage Lottery Fund and others to maximise community reach and engagement in library services through art, business and heritage.
CIPFA heard back from 43% of local authorities.
GLL runs 130 Better Libraries in Bromley, Dudley, Greenwich, Lincolnshire and Wandsworth.