Rural public libraries are closing at a much faster rate than in London, a Liberal Democrat study has shown.

London libraries close at a rate of about one every 10 weeks, says the study, whereas the North West loses one every three weeks. Half of the 71 public libraries that closed last year were in the North.

Five libraries closed in London last year, but five new ones were opened. In every other county, there was a loss in the number of libraries, with the North West losing 10 in total.

The figures are released as [Children’s Secretary] Ed Balls has declared 2008 as ‘The Year of Reading’, which promotes reading through events and festivals.

Library closures:

North West: 10

North East: 7

South West: 7

South East: 6

Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat spokesman for culture, media and sport, said: ‘On Labour’s watch, rural areas are in danger of being cut out of the loop, left behind and marginalised as resources are concentrated elsewhere. Ed Balls told us 2008 was the year of the book. But it seems like this won’t be the case for everyone.’

Spending on libraries has now reached £1billion per year, up from £662million last year. Book loans, however, have fallen 34 per cent since 2007, according to an independent survey by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.

A study out today, however, shows that people in the UK would prefer a library to a home cinema. Fifteen per cent of people would love a library in their home, compared to eight per cent who want a home cinema, and seven per cent who want a snooker room, according to the Legal and General survey.

Countryside public libraries, however, are closing at a much faster rate than in London, a Lib Dem study has shown, despite 2008 being declared the Year of Reading.

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