Croydon’s main library is the second busiest library in London, a recently published survey revealed.
The survey, conducted by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, showed that Croydon Central Library is the fifth busiest in the country and was visited by almost 882,144 people in 2013.
A Croydon council spokesperson said: “Croydon’s central library has always been popular, and as the main library for London’s most populated borough it’s not surprising that it receives so many visitors every year.”
The spokesperson added: “It has a wide range of stock and is a lovely, modern facility built alongside the traditional Victorian town hall and Clocktower. Recent improvements have seen the installation of new public computers and free WiFi.”
However, Elizabeth Ash, local library activist and leader of the Save Croydon Libraries Campaign, criticised the council for what she considers a poor quality service.
Ash said: “I find [the council’s comments] very frustrating, because the reality is very different. Despite the percentage of population in Croydon going up, spending for the library has been going drastically down.”
Despite the large amount of visitors, the library is not featured in the top 20 for number of books borrowed annually, suggesting some people just use the library for other services.
Ash added: “Also, these figures may not refer to proper library services – book issuing figures have been going down by 40 per cent over last 10 years, and 4 per cent only in last year.”
“Last year we’ve seen a huge cull in book stock. The library spends 52p on book stock per resident: 10 years ago it would have been 5 times as much. The IT issues seem to have been addressed but they were way overdue. I am also horrified at the number of experienced librarians who are leaving or have already left.”
This follows Croydon council’s decision in October to privatise 13 libraries’ services to construction company Carillion, who were implicated in the blacklisting scandal. Since the takeover, many library staff members have been informed that they are at risk of redundancies.
Despite Croydon Central topping the tables, the library saw a drop in the number of visits from last year. In 2012, the library was named the third busiest library in the country and had 1,021,902 visits.
The decrease in visitors mirrors a nationwide trend of austerity-fuelled library funding cuts since 2011.
Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library was the nation’s most visited library. Just ahead of Croydon Central was the Woolwich Library in Greenwich, with 889, 504 visits.
Additional reporting by Chiara Rimella