What’s happened to all Dundee’s readers?
That’s the question being asked as it’s revealed that the city’s Central Library has seen a dramatic drop in its visitor numbers.
A new strategy has now been launched, looking at the future of the library and the challenges it faces.
According to new figures, there were more than 33,000 fewer visitors to the library in the Wellgate Centre in the first three months of this year than during the same period last year.
A report to go before members of Dundee City Council’s scrutiny committee reveals that there were 163,093 visitors to the library between March and June this year compared to 196,379 in the same time last year.
In his report, David Martin, chief executive of the council, described the drop as “a large decrease”.
The figures are in stark contrast to figures published at the end of 2015.
At that time the number of people using Dundee’s libraries was reported to have risen significantly during the year.
Figures published in December showed that nearly 1.8 million people visited city libraries in 2015.
That was 29% more than in the previous year and was described at the time by a spokesman for Leisure and Culture Dundee, which runs the facilities, as a “significant increase”.
Now, a spokesman for the department said it was hard to understand why there had been such a dramatic drop recently.
He said some uncertainty over the future of the Wellgate Centre could be part of the explanation but it certainly wasn’t the entire picture.
The report also shows a drop in visitors to libraries all across Dundee during the first three months of this year.
Mr Martin said the situation at the Central Library was being looked at, adding: “Library management is looking at a strategy for the future of the Central Library in relation to the challenges facing the Wellgate.”
Mr Martin said that libraries were key partners in the Scottish Government’s Read, Write, Count campaign.
He said: “Following the very successful launch at Lochee Library in February, we are exploring joint working with colleagues in education to ensure families are aware of and benefit from this initiative.”
Councillor Stewart Hunter, the council’s education leader, said the education department tries to encourage young people in Dundee to read as much as possible.
He added: “Most of our young people are well engaged in reading and we encourage this through our Read, Write, Count campaign. We also regularly encourage our schools to take pupils along to the local libraries in a bid to get young people reading and also using their library.”
Peter Whyte, 26, from the city centre, said: “I use the Central Library weekly to get online as I don’t have access at home.”
Meanwhile, Leona McDonnell, 65, from Kirkton, who’s retired, said she had never used the library, adding: “The library just doesn’t bother me. I’m not a reader or anything — I read the Tele and that’s about it.
“I think my husband used to go quite a lot in the past but now these days he does everything on the computer.”
Dearbhla Mockler, 22, from Hilltown, who’s looking for work, said she used the library recently to print off a CV.
She said: “There’s a lot of elderly and middle-aged people who use it but you don’t see younger people anymore — I love libraries.”
James Clancy, 27, a DWP worker from Downfield, said: “I can’t tell you the last time I was in the library. I’m not much of a reader and haven’t much use for their computers. I suppose it doesn’t occur to me that it’s there. I don’t know about a lot of the things they offer. I think libraries should stay open though.”