A RELAXING holiday for most people still includes a good book with a racey title which is read – devoured even – beneath a parasol by the pool or in a quiet corner in the shade.

However, a 20,000-word document published in mid-August on the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport website caught my eye, even if its title was far from racey: “Analysing data: Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting statistics and the future of England's libraries”.

Its headline is that in the last ten years, issues of books in Britain’s 3,034 libraries have declined by 38 per cent and visits to them have declined by 28 per cent. However, this decline has appreciably slowed, suggesting it may be bottoming out.

The report, by a Cambridge University statistician, says: “Libraries remain an important facet of life in England. In the financial year 2016 to 2017, libraries in England received more than 205m physical visits, more than visits to Premier League football games, A&E services, and the cinema combined.”

It is not all doom and gloom. There are "trendbuckers". For example, North Yorkshire, where many libraries are now run by community organisations, is one of only ten library services in the country that increased book issues last year.

And Darlington, where the council has been trying to move the library out of its Victorian building and squeeze it into its Dolphin leisure centre, is one of 31 libraries in the country which increased its number of visits in 2016-17.

The statisticians try to work out why these trendbuckers are successful. Statistics being statistics, they can tell you the bleeding obvious – as council expenditure on libraries declines so does library use; longer library opening hours leads to more library use.

They can also tell you nothing at all: it is too early to say whether moving premises benefits libraries, as some suffer a “steep decline”, but equally there has been centralisation in Greenwich in London where the library service, run by a non-profitable social enterprise, is the country’s most successful having recorded a staggering 68 per cent improvement in ten years.

The report notes that whereas most libraries are poor at promoting themselves, the trendbuckers have had eye-catching marketing and involvement campaigns. It also says that the trendbucking libraries have invested more in their buildings than in their book stocks so that they now have a “retail-standard environment” with the “amenities of coffee, sofas and toilets”.

It says: “Coffee shops are on the rise in England. Two thirds (65 per cent) of all people visited a coffee shop between August and October 2016, and 73 per cent of 16-24-year olds did. Time spent reading and studying in coffee shops is time not spent in libraries.”

The clear implication is that a trendbucking library should have a coffee shop.

And the statisticians conclude that it is “forward-thinking leadership alongside political support” that enables the trendbuckers to be successful.

So why is Darlington library up there with the trendbuckers? It doesn’t have a café, and its children’s section is currently closed off because the ceiling is caving in. It promotes itself only quietly (on its railings today are banners promoting the Hippodrome and a hospice toddle in the park but there’s not a word about the excitement inside ), and the “political support” has involved an attempt to shoehorn it into the leisure centre.

So Darlington is a trendbucker that is bucking the trendbucking trend.

The report is clear that libraries have to change profoundly. Darlington library is no different. The council cabinet will next discuss its future on September 11. Will the members put “forward-thinking leadership alongside political support” on the agenda to give the library a proper chance of adapting to the future in its historic home where it is already bucking the national trend?