Library Survey 2021

Closed 11 Jul 2021

Opened 31 May 2021


Like many aspects of everyday life the library service has been operating in a very different way for the past year. By undertaking this survey we want to make sure that as we emerge from lockdown we are providing a library service that is relevant for the future and which people will continue to value.

Prior to lockdown in March 2020, East Lothian Council operated 12 public libraries with a total of 399 opening hours every week. It had also contracted with Midlothian Council to provide a Mobile Library Service to 6 villages to the West and South of the county and with Scottish Borders Council to provide a Mobile Library Service to 2 villages to the East of the county. It provided and continues to provide a Home Library Service to around 90 individuals.  We have an extensive eLibrary service and we provide a staffed School Library Service in each of our 6 Secondary Schools.

The Library service also provides project boxes to all the primary and nursery schools in the Council area as well as to the secondary schools on request.

Library opening hours have increased year on year from 2012/13, when new libraries were opened in Haddington and Dunbar, until 2018/19. However, despite increasing library opening hours by 2016/17 visits had dropped by 17% and borrowing by 35% across the service. Usage has since levelled off and although library visits have remained fairly static, physical borrowing figures continue to reduce. This downward trend is mirrored at a national and UK level.  Despite this, around 530,000 visits were made to our libraries in 2019/20, around 300,000 physical and audio book issues were made and around 20,000 eBooks and eAudiobooks were borrowed.

In 2019/20, the 6 busiest libraries in our main towns (Haddington, Musselburgh, Dunbar, North Berwick, Prestonpans and Tranent) accounted for 82% of all visits to libraries that year and the 6 libraries with the highest % of issues were also in 5 of the 6 main towns (Longniddry replaced Tranent) and accounted for over 78% of all issues.

Why your views matter

During lockdown all of our 12 libraries were closed completely for a period of 4 months, 4 part time libraries have remained closed to the public while the remaining 8 libraries have offered a mixture of browsing and a click and collect service with reduced opening hours. Even so our physical adult library loans are equal to 45% of the previous year while the borrowing of our eBooks, eNewspapers and eMagazines has more than doubled.

Many of our services are accessible online and their use has seen virtual visits increase as has engagement with our presence on social media platforms. This does lead to the question of what physical opening hours would best serve library usage moving forward and also what services should we provide.

The widening of the Educational attainment gap has been increasing in some areas in East Lothian in recent years and something needs to change to improve this situation.

When we look at our library usage, a higher percentage of borrowers at Prestonpans Library are children.  This is quite different to the majority of the libraries except for Wallyford which was always generally used by children and is now located in Wallyford Primary School. 

Prestonpans Library is well used by children as it hosts a lot of class visits.  We would like to see that library specialise as a children’s library to support more vulnerable children and families and provide a quiet environment for those children who suffer from autism.  Reading in childhood has a significant effect on a child’s life chances and reading improves mental health as an adult.

As part of the review of Services to Children this development will assist in improving educational attainment in the Preston/Seton/Gosford area and we would wish to see this as a pilot with the possibility of good practice being used in other areas of the county.  We want to make better use of this library which would still be available for general public use on certain days.  There are specific questions about Prestonpans Library in this survey.

A report published by the Scottish Government in 2018 highlighted that libraries are still one of the most frequently used public services. Reasons given then for not using libraries are that people have less free time, they buy books or read e-books. One solution to this advocated by Carnegie UK is the provision of a blended library service, combining a physical and virtual library presence.

We would be grateful for your views on the Library service in the future.

What happens next

Thank you for taking the time to complete this consultation.  We will be assessing the feedback from all respondents and updating the Results on this page.  So watch this space!


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