General, HP, Surrey County Council

Online library use overtakes visits to branches

Online library visits have overtaken those to branches in Surrey, latest figures reveal.

Surrey County Council’s online library was used 4.2 million times in the 2012-13 financial year – a rise of 20% on the previous year.

That outstripped the near four million annual visits to Surrey branches as library users downloaded e-books, got free magazines and reserved items on their Apple and Android devices.

Helyn Clack, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services, said: “Our libraries are undergoing a digital revolution and they have become much more than a place simply to borrow books.

“Enjoying books on an e-reader, studying online or downloading a magazine from smartphones and tablets is the norm these days for young people and in Surrey we’re embracing technology to cater for these changing demands.

“However, our libraries will always be a haven for people who want to study, research or simply browse the bookshelves for a good read while also being community hubs for the likes of children’s events and activities for older people and that’s why we’re continuing to invest in branches.”

Recent digital developments include an app that allows readers to find and reserve a book simply by scanning its barcode and a virtual version of a library that lets people experience being in the branch from anywhere with an internet connection.

The council has also opened a new library in Dorking, revamped the popular Woking branch and launched plans for new facilities in Merstham and Cobham. Free wi-fi is also available at all Surrey’s libraries and the Performing Arts Library.

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