LIBRARY campaigners claim that new figures showing a drop in the number of books issued are ‘insignificant’ and are a result of reduced opening hours.

In Lyme Regis there was a four per cent decrease in the number issued last year compared with 2009, and a two per cent drop in Charmouth.

But the Association of the Friends of Dorset Libraries (Ad Lib) group claims that many threatened libraries have issued an increased number.

Beaminster did particularly well with a six per cent increase last year compared with the previous year.

Lyme Regis and Charmouth are two of the 20 small libraries facing a funding cut from Dorset County Council along with Beaminster and Burton Bradstock.

Campaigners acknowledge the decline, but point out that some of the larger libraries, which are safe, have also failed to retain issue numbers.

Hazel Robinson, chairman of the Friends of Charmouth Library, said: “What is even more surprising is that the larger libraries have longer and more convenient opening hours and many more facilities and activities than the smaller, local libraries yet they have still not managed to retain their book issue figures.

“Smaller libraries are also more cost-effective per issue because of their lower running costs.”

Mrs Robinson said the two per cent drop is ‘statistically insignificant’ and could be put down to a recently improved library in the local school.

“Friends of Charmouth Library believe that if they are allowed to provide more services in the library than has been allowed by Dorset Library Services in the past, the book issue figures would rise very rapidly – as long as there is a library,” she said.

Library opening hours have been reduced gradually over the years, which campaigners claim could account for the figures.

Anita Williams, of the Save the Lyme Regis Library Campaign, said: “It is clear that the issue figures for Lyme Regis have decreased year on year following the reduction of hours by the county council in recent years.” Ms Williams said it should be noted that there were also over 3,100 online renewals last year.

She added that the county council’s figures show that Lyme library is used by 38 per cent of the town’s population.

“I am not overly surprised at the decrease in usage,” said Ms Williams. “Since we started the library campaign, we have heard consistently from the users of our library that they are not happy with the service operated by the county.

“The library is currently only open for 20 hours per week and we hear from all sections of the population that this is not sufficient.” A public meeting will be held in the Woodmead Halls, Lyme Regis, on Monday, May 23 at 7.30pm to update residents on the campaign.

Dorset Library Service is meeting with representatives from all the county’s 34 libraries on May 24.