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Visitor numbers to Dunedin's public libraries are down 8.1% this year compared with the corresponding period last year, a loss the library services manager attributes to the internet.
There were 53,830 fewer physical visits to city libraries between July 1 last year and January 31 than in the corresponding period a year ago.
Issues were down 4.9%, and reference inquiries down 2.8%.
The main reason for the drop, library services manager Bernie Hawke said, was people increasingly accessed books, magazines or information online.
Mr Hawke said city libraries were progressively doing more online, for example more databases were available online now, and, so far, 1500 e-books were available from the libraries to download on to e-readers other than Kindles, which could only read e-books sourced from Amazon.
The library had purchased some e-books, but that area of its service was still in its infancy, largely because of the issues around creating a system for libraries that dealt with technicalities around copyright, formats, platforms, and the different requirements of publishers.
The same issues were affecting every library in New Zealand, and moves were afoot at a national level to identify a usable business model for libraries for online loaning.
The library was responding to the decrease in visits and loans by working on alternative services to attract more people, such as free internet, children's programmes, hosting community events - which attracted about 40,000 people to libraries across the city last year - and more online services.
The library still expected about 1 million people through Dunedin library doors this year, which made them the most heavily used public facilities in the city, Mr Hawke said.