A rise in visitors to libraries across Shropshire and to Theatre Severn have been hailed as a “big positive”.

Shropshire Council has revealed that 16,500 more visits were made to libraries in the county in 2018/19 compared to the previous year.

And Shrewsbury’s Theatre Severn has seen a year-on-year patron rise of eight per cent – with almost 200,000 people attending shows and events.

Councillor Lezley Picton, Shropshire Council’s cabinet member for leisure, said she was thrilled.

“I have to take my hat off to the theatre who continue to do some marvellous things for this county,” she said.

“I cannot begin to praise the hard-working staff enough, it has become a real highlight of the county and one we can be very proud of.

“I also want to say what absolutely fantastic news it is about the rise in library visitors and also a surge in the number of people using the library cloud service, where you can borrow books, magazines and newspapers online.

“I am usually heckled at cabinet by the Labour group leader for us recording a drop in library users, so to see these figures would have pleased him greatly.”

Tom Dodds, the council’s intelligence and insight manager, added: “Participation in positive activities is beneficial for both physical and mental wellbeing. 

“Participation rates have been mainly positive with increased visitors to leisure centres, outdoor recreation sites, visitor attractions, Theatre Severn and the Old Market Hall.

“There has been a welcome increase in visitors to libraries, this follows a long-term decrease. 

“Visitor numbers for the year to March 2019 were 918,755 compared to 902,231 in March 2018. 

“The library service continues to develop new services and initiatives to encourage use of its facilities and online materials. 

“Usage of the cloudLibrary e-book system has doubled to over 24,000 loans and the e-audio has quadrupled to over 4,800 loans. 

“Over 1,000 new users have registered for the cloudLibrary service. 

“There has also been increased usage of the RB Digital e-magazines with over 26,000 issues read and also with Press Reader with over 16,000 e-magazines and enewspapers read.”

He added: “The number of patrons at Theatre Severn has continued to increase with annual attendance for 2018/19 increasing by eight per cent to almost 200,000. 

“A total of 199,632 patrons attended in the year to March 2019 compared to 184,810 in the year to March 2018. 

“The increase can be attributed to a number of sell out productions and are the theatre is proud to bring more big touring shows than ever before to Shrewsbury. 

“The theatre was awarded a What’s On Readers Award, and also Gold in the Shrewsbury Mayor’s Award for the Tourism category.

“The total annual number of visitors to visitor attractions in Ludlow, Much Wenlock, Acton Scott, Shrewsbury Castle and Shrewsbury Museum has slightly decreased to 179,079 at quarter 4 2018/19 compared to 182,803 at quarter 4 2017/18. 

“The slight reduction in visitor numbers is attributed to the Easter holiday period which fell into a different reporting period.”