The 2020 pandemic sparked a change reading habits across Wiltshire, meaning people are using the services more than before.

Wiltshire Council have 34 libraries across the Wiltshire, including three mobile libraries that circulate the county each week.

A freedom of information request by the Journal revealed the numbers of books being borrowed since 2011.

Since 2011, physical book loans from Wiltshire Libraries have dropped by more than a million.

In 2011, the number of these books loaned totalled at 2,589,982 but in 2023, the number sat at 1,514,665.

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, library sites closed from March 20, 2020, with provisions moving online with eBooks, eAudio and eMagazine services available.

Salisbury LibrarySalisbury Library (Image: Newsquest)

In 2020, the number of library eBooks borrowed rose by over 25,000 from 2017. Despite libraries having now reopened, that number remains high at 40,681 in 2023.

The eBook and eAudiobook service means library card holders can borrow up to 10 digital copies at a time for free, with an automatic expiration after 21 days.

Library cards themselves remain free to the public, following an application.

An increase in non-physical reading appears to be a reflection of an increasingly digital society, and cabinet member for libraries, cllr Ian Blair-Pilling, gave a statement on this.

He said: “The reduction in book borrowing is a result of a change in reading habits with many people now opting for e-books and audiobooks. We have also seen a recent rise in book borrowing above pre-pandemic levels with 1.8m books borrowed in 2023-2024, up 9.8 per cent on 2022-23.”

Malborough LibraryMalborough Library (Image: Newsquest)

In addition, during the period of 2023-24, Wiltshire Libraries welcomed more than 1.25m visitors - a 26.4 per cent increase on the previous year.

Cllr Blair-Pilling added: “Whilst many other local authorities have been closing libraries, we’re proud to have kept all of ours open, offering more than ever before.

“This includes our digital support appointments accessed by over 800 residents, regular rhyme times, author talks and popular challenges to encourage children to read more such as the Summer Reading Challenge and the Story Adventures Club which has seen over 900 children take up the challenge to read 100 books.”

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