Number of computers in Scotland's libraries falls by 6%

March 18, 2019




The number of computers in Scotland’s libraries has fallen by 6 per cent since the turn of the decade, new figures have revealed. The investigation comes amid growing concerns about ‘digital exclusion’, with access to computers in public places being reduced at a time when public services are increasingly moving to digital-only applications. The new Universal Credit welfare system involves online applications only, and it was revealed last week that 45,000 people in Scotland needed help filling out the form. Research for the House of Commons Library shows Scotland had 4,545 computers in libraries in 2010-11, but only 4,264 in 2017-18 (-6 per cent).

Catherine Stihler, chief executive of Open Knowledge International which campaigns on data literacy, said: “Technological advances are driving the world forward, but too many people are being left behind. “Digital exclusion is a major challenge, particularly when so many vital public services such as welfare payments now require online applications. “Public access to computers in libraries is a necessity, and it’s troubling to see the number reduce in both England and Scotland. “Closing down libraries is a short-sighted decision, which flies in the face of attempts to boost data literacy and ensure that data is shared openly so that we can empower communities.”



Data on the numbers of computers in libraries UK-wide – England had 34,728 computers in libraries in 2010-11. This fell to 30,967 in 2017-18 (-11%) – Wales had 2,852 computers in libraries in 2010-11. This rose to 3,152 in 2017-18 (+11%) – Scotland had 4,545 computers in libraries in 2010-11. This fell to 4,264 in 2017-18 (-6%) – Data was not available for Northern Ireland after 2013-14 SOURCE: CIPFA, Public Libraries, December 2018 and earlier editions (Data collated by the House of Commons Library)

Contact: Alan Roden at or +44 07753 904 531


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