Kirsty Williams AM has published research showing that Powys’ residents value their libraries more than most of Wales. She has re-iterated calls that the Conservative/Independent administration at Powys Council Council should rethink its plans to slash support for branch libraries.
The intervention comes amidst ongoing budget uncertainty following the rejection of the Council Cabinet’s budget proposals on 21st February.
The research shows that, despite its rural nature, Powys sees more visits to its libraries than the vast majority of council areas in Wales. Kirsty has published these findings in a short guide entitled ‘Library use in Powys’.
Statistics from Data Cymru for the period 2017-18 (when this information was last collected) show that:
- 716,039 people visited libraries in Powys in 2017-18.
- Only 6 out of the twenty-two local authorities in Wales saw more library visits than Powys. Most councils with more visits covered more urban regions.
- Powys was also 7th in terms of visits per population, with 5,411 library visits per 1,000 population.
- Powys saw a greater proportion of library visits in Wales than its share of the population. It accounted for 4.36% of library visits across Wales, despite only having 4.25% of the population.
While these statistics show a higher use of libraries in Powys than across the rest of Wales, Powys is not immune from the wider trend of declining library use. In this context, Kirsty is calling for creative thinking and alternative approaches to be taken – in recognition of the extra value that people in Powys place on their libraries.
Kirsty Williams, Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for Brecon and Radnorshire, said:
“We often hear about declining library use. About how these services aren’t being used. I’m presenting the information in this publication to show the other side of the coin. What it says, loudly and clearly, is that Powys’ residents value their libraries.
“Only six of the 22 council areas across Wales saw more library visits than Powys. The high use in Powys comes despite the rural nature of our county, with the average resident less likely to have a library on their doorstep.
“Of course, our libraries have not been immune from the Wales-wide trend towards declining use. Those of us wanting to secure the future of libraries must be up-front about that. And it’s in that context that services need to be planned. We do need to think about different approaches, such as greater community involvement and co-location with other services that we’re increasingly seeing. Where this happens the Council needs to be fully committed to supporting it.
“But needing to think differently doesn’t mean we don’t need to think at all. Powys values its libraries more than the majority of local authority areas in Wales. The Council’s plans to slash support for branch libraries do not reflect that.
“Our libraries are cultural and educational assets which can open up new horizons for people. I would urge the Council to take this information into account when considering the future of libraries in Powys.”
‘Library use in Powys’ can be found here.
A Welsh language version can be found here.
The information from Data Cymru can be found here.