THE number of volunteers working at libraries in the UK has risen by almost half in a year.

A total of 33,808 people volunteered at libraries in 2012/13, an increase of 44.5% from the previous year. At the same time, the number of full-time equivalent staff employed by libraries fell by 20,302, a 6.8% drop over the 12-month period.

The annual survey compiled by The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) showed libraries were still closing down, although fewer shut this year than in the previous 12 months.

Central Library Dundee was Scotland's busiest centre, with 779,424 visits recorded in a year, compared with 639,571 to the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. Edinburgh Central was highest in terms of borrowings, with 443,488 occasions when items were taken out by members of the public.

The institute said the data showed people are using libraries in new ways as a community hub, with storytelling sessions, reading groups and author visits all hosted in the buildings.

Rob Whiteman, chief executive of CIPFA, said: "Local authorities have worked hard to identify savings and reduce spending, but also seem to be looking at new ways of keeping their libraries open to the public.

"While the number of libraries and staff has fallen again, this has slowed. However the surge in volunteer numbers suggests libraries are searching for new ways to engage and serve their communities."

The busiest library in the UK was Norfolk and Norwich Millennium, with 1,273,416 visits in 2012/13.