LIBRARIES in lower-spending areas of the region have attracted more borrowers, surprise Government research has found.
The ‘comparative profiles’ hail the library services in County Durham, Darlington and Hartlepool local councils for “engaging well” with local people.
The two areas also issue fewer books than County Durham, Darlington and Hartlepool, despite more physical visits from local people.
But both North Yorkshire and Redcar and Cleveland win high marks for supplying missing books, after readers have requested them.
The reports have been produced, for the department for culture media and sport (DCCMS), by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).
They are intended to help library authorities ensure they are delivering a good level of service for local people - and to identify where they are falling short.
The profiles – produced for some, but not all, councils – cover scores of measures, taking in library users, resources, workload, stock and performance.
They cover the 12 months to March 2013, two years after the start of steep cuts to town hall budgets which sparked protests over library closures in some areas.
Each authority is compared with a basket of councils of similar size elsewhere in England, rather than all others – so County Durham is not compared with Darlington, for example.
The results for the number of “active borrowers” per 1,000 people show County Durham, Darlington and Hartlepool all have more than comparable authorities.
The trio also issue more books per 1,000 residents than the average and Darlington and Hartlepool also stock more, while County Durham is about average.
Yet, County Durham, Darlington spend less than the average on their library services – sums that have plummetted everywhere, by up to 25 per cent, since 2009.
In contrast, North Yorkshire and Redcar and Cleveland both issue and stock fewer books than their comparators, despite spending more money.
However, a reader who has ordered a book is more likely to receive it within seven days in either North Yorkshire or Redcar and Cleveland Ed Vaizey, the culture minister, said: “We want all our library services to be the best they can.
“This set of new and detailed reports will allow local authorities to identify areas for improvement and also look at what other places are doing in terms of service and good practice.
“Using the information will allow for better services for all library users and those responsible for running them.
The profiles, which have also been produced for Newcastle, Gateshead and South Tyneside, can be viewed at http://www.cipfa.org/services/research-and-statistics/comparative-profiles/public-libraries/cipfastats-library-profiles-english-authorities-2013