The hollowing out of children's public library services in England from 2010-2016

Catriona Robertson, David McMenemy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
86 Downloads (Pure)


This research develops a normative understanding of Rhodes’ (1994) theory of hollowing out of public services and the extent to which this process has happened to children’s library services between 2010 and 2016 in England. The objectives were to gain knowledge of the phenomenon, seek to assess emerging trends, and create a working definition of hollowing out as it applies in the public library domain. To achieve these objectives, Freedom of Information requests were made to local authorities across England to gather data on library input since 2010.
It was found that there has been a significant downward trend in staff, spending, and opening hours across children’s public library services in England between 2010 and 2016. The research found that there has indeed been hollowing out of children’s library services. On average, specialist staff have been cut by 40%, children’s book budgets by 23%, and opening hours by 11%. The literature suggests that this is coupled with a rise in closures, community run and outsourced libraries, and volunteering. The data produced for this research describes a process which is consistent with the definition of hollowing out proposed by Rhodes (1994). This definition encompasses the economic and political factors that shape the phenomenon of hollowing out.
This research is the first in the world to consider the concept of hollowing out in relation to public libraries. The definition and methods used will be beneficial for future research in the domain, and the findings from the study can help to inform debates about the condition of public library services in England in the modern era.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-105
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Librarianship and Information Science
Issue number1
Early online date22 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • public libraries
  • austerity
  • hollowing out
  • library data


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