MORE than half (57%) of adults in the UK disagree that digital services are an adequate replacement for traditional libraries, according to a survey conducted by the University of Strathclyde.

The survey, conducted in partnership with YouGov, also found that while the number of people using digital library services increased by 11% in 2020-2021 from pre-pandemic levels, they still amounted to only a fifth of all library users.

The online survey covered the views of more than 2000 adults aged 18 and over. It found that, overall, 57% of people surveyed tended to disagree or strongly disagreed that “digital services are an adequate replacement for traditional library services.”

Just under a quarter (22%) of those surveyed agreed with the suggestion.

The responses were broadly reflected consistently across each age group in the survey, with disagreement among 48% aged 18-34, 58% aged 35-44, 53% aged 45-54 and 64% aged 55 and over.

In the younger age groups (ages 18-34), where fewer than 50% disagreed, they still outnumbered those who agreed once “don’t know” answers were taken into account.

The study was undertaken last year by Dr David McMenemy, Professor Ian Ruthven, and Dr Elaine Robinson of Strathclyde’s Department of Computer & Information Sciences.

McMenemy said: “People have missed physical libraries while they have been closed during lockdowns. They are stress-free, calming places where people can go to relax, borrow books or study.

“They are also social spaces at the heart of communities, where people can take their children. They host events and even, in some cases, have even acted as Covid-19 vaccination centres.

“In parallel with this survey, we have made Freedom of Information requests to public library authorities across the UK. The responses show that, in the vast majority of libraries, increases in e-book use account for on average 10-20% of the physical loans that might have been expected had the libraries been open, and this bears out the findings of our survey.”