Arts and Culture

Manchester libraries experience post-pandemic rise in visitors

Manchester libraries are experiencing a rise in visitors post-Covid, with more people using PCs to access the internet and print documents. 

The number of Manchester public libraries visits has increased significantly since 2020, with the total number of visits reaching 2.7M over the last year, according to the Libraries Annual Performance Data released by Manchester City Council.

This count is conducted by electronic gates in all branches across Manchester and is 25% higher than in 2022.

With the closure of all libraries due to Covid-19 in March 2020,  the number of visits had dropped to 124,665, a sudden decrease which had concerned many. But now, after recovering from Covid-19, it seems public libraries are revitalising.

A spokesperson for Manchester City Council said: “The level of library visits is still recovering from its pre-covid levels. Use has increased steadily since the lockdown, as people feel more confident visiting public spaces and returning to their old habits. Library use will continue to rise over the next 12 months.”

Besides borrowing books, one of the main reasons for visiting public libraries is using computers. According to data, computer usage hours more than doubled during 2022 compared to the previous year. Additionally, Manchester libraries have experienced a 19% rise in PC usage hours in 2023.

The Council spokesperson added: “Computer use has increased in line with the increase in visitors. Libraries have been the primary venue for public Internet access for over 25 years, and it’s an essential role of a public library.  The use of Internet computers is disproportionately from people who live in areas of higher deprivation.  A very common use of the facilities in libraries is the printer – as most people have personal Internet access, but most people do not have access to a printer.”

Library events and activities have been significant factors in attracting visitors in recent years. According to Manchester City Council data, the number of attendees to events and activities, including people who participated in online sessions, grew by 28% during 2023 compared with the previous year.

This shows that people have become more confident and eager to participate in the libraries’ social events and activities. Also, Manchester libraries have played a significant role in attracting visitors by offering diverse programmes for all ages across the city after the pandemic. 

*Feature image courtesy of Chris Curry

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