"The picture for public library services is rather gloomy," according to the Library and Information Statistics Unit. "Expenditure on materials has dropped, issues per head are falling and the rate of decline is accelerating."
The survey showed a fall of 34 per cent in Scotland since 1992-93, a drop of 23 per cent in London and a similar decline in the metropolitan districts and Northern Ireland.
About 10 per cent of public libraries had no specialist children's staff. Book stocks have declined - metropolitan districts have lost 28 per cent in five years.
However, the number of school librarians increased by 12 per cent.
The report is available from LISU, Loughborough University, Leicestershire, LE11 3TU, price pound;22.50.