Jesmond Library popularity on the rise despite impending closure

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Although it will soon be shut by the council, Jesmond Library’s popularity has not waned. Recently published attendance figures for the library reveal that the number of people visiting the building is likely to have increased compared to the same period in the previous year. These figures are in sharp contrast to the falling attendance stats for the City Library, the PFI project in Newcastle city centre which is protected from the closures announced in the recent council budget cuts.

The council approved figures for Jesmond Library show an upturn in the number of people walking through its doors. Under the term ‘usage’, the figures, which include repeat visits, show that in the year April 2011-March 2012, 65,783 people came to the Library. Though full-year figures are not yet available from Jesmond Library, in the 10 months from April 2012 to the end of January 2013, ‘usage’ totalled 64,976, just 807 shy of last year’s whole-year total, with two months’ worth of attendance unrecorded.

Extrapolating these figures to the end of March 2013 (using an unweighted monthly average of 6,498 visitors) it gives a potential total of 77,971 people coming to the library for that year, meaning that if people were to continue attending at a similar rate there would be 12,188 more visits, an increase of nearly 20% on the previous year’s figures.

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If the actual figures, to be released shortly, back up this forecast, it would contrast sharply with the City Library, whose usage figures, whilst larger overall, show a clear fall. Having submitted a Freedom of Information application JesmondLocal has learned that the attendance at City Library from April 2011-March 2012 was 986,860, whilst from April 2012-March 2013 it was 927,831, a fall of almost 6%.

Asked to comment, David Hardman, Labour councillor for South Heaton, called the figures “very interesting,” adding that “I would guess that it just shows that the commitment to Jesmond Library of Jesmond residents is very strong and the threat of closure has drawn people in to the library more.” Councillor Hardman also highlighted the new library bus service which has helped many people visit the building since it started.

Although Jesmond Library is facing the removal of council financial support due to the budget cuts, the debate over its future is still ongoing. Local group ‘Friends of Jesmond Library’ are hoping to establish a community-run public library and community hub and are inviting all Jesmond residents to a public meeting at 7pm on Monday May 20th at St George’s Church Hall to discuss future plans.

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