Why Libraries Matter to Scotland's Communities

Woman Browsing Books
Category: Reading

As Book Week Scotland fast approaches, we look forward to seeing the many fantastic author events and other reading activities taking place in libraries across Scotland. A week like Book Week Scotland really shows the importance of libraries as hubs in their communities. 

Book Week Scotland really shows the importance of libraries being hubs of their communities

Outwith this annual festival of reading, libraries provide a welcoming space for local people throughout the year. The National Strategy for public libraries looks for libraries “to become champions of community engagement and empowerment” and they do this in all sorts of wonderful ways. They offer reading clubs, computer classes, events, local history groups and a wide variety of projects that position libraries as inclusive spaces at the centre of Scotland’s communities.

An example of this is the centenary of World War One, during which there have been events and projects which have brought communities and generations together. East Dunbartonshire’s War has been uncovering the local story of the First World War and its influence on local communities. The libraries have been working with schools to produce education materials based on their archive and library collections and sharing the discoveries with the wider community. Many other libraries have been doing similar, such as Angus Libraries engaging with the local community to produce an accessible record commemorating what life was like on the Home Front in Angus during the Great War.

Libraries Matter
This type of work, where libraries bridge the generations, is also in evidence elsewhere. High Life Highland Libraries utilise teenage volunteers to support existing staff to help deliver events and activities with their High Voltage project. Meanwhile the libraries in Perth and Kinross delivered Lads and Dads - a six-week programme of reading and literacy-related activities. South Lanarkshire Leisure & Culture’s 70 Voices is another project that made a lasting contribution to local heritage resources - giving young and old the opportunity to get involved in a wide range of cutting edge digital activities with the dialogue recorded.

Macmillan in Libraries clearly shows how libraries support the heath of their communities by providing one to one sessions with people whose lives have been affected by cancer, while Community Connections in South Lanarkshire hopes to reach adults who are lonely and welcome them in with various activities. These life-changing projects are only possible in a safe, trusted and neutral space like a public library.

Scotland’s Libraries are a welcoming space for all and they support communities where English is not a first language. Many libraries engage with English speakers of other languages (ESOL) and provide collections and a friendly space to meet.

School libraries support and engage with local communities too. Elgin Academy’s Getting Grounded project helped the school pupils talk to each other about mental health and their anxieties. And who could forget the wonderful Reading with Dogs and their innovative approach to improving literacy levels!

Our colleagues at the Scottish Library and Information Council are leading on several national projects that inspire community engagement and bring people into the library. Their new Wikimedian in residence, Sara Thomas, is helping communities across Scotland engage with Wikipedia. Meanwhile, their Film Education Project brings together communities to watch, discuss and learn about film in areas where little or no film provision exists.

These projects are only possible if libraries remain open in communities and are fully staffed

These are just a select few examples of the rich and diverse work going on in Scotland’s libraries led by the many wonderful library and information professionals. These projects are only possible if libraries remain open in communities and are fully staffed. We are approaching another round of budget cuts and both public and school libraries will once again be under discussion by Councils up and down the country. These libraries and their staff make an extraordinary difference to people’s lives and must be protected as much as possible.

If you are visiting a library during Book Week Scotland, why not ask your local library what else they have going on? You may be surprised!

To find out more about Book Week Scotland and how you can get involved, visit our events page. Or take a look at our Virtual Festival schedule, which has information on all the great online content you can engage with throughout the week.  

Photo credit: Kirsty Anderson 

Sean McNamara

Sean McNamara is the Policy and Digital officer for the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland. Sean previously worked in public libraries for 5 years as a People’s Network and Learning Services Librarian.

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