The first national strategy for Scotland's public libraries has been published today and sets out a vision for strengthening the role of libraries in communities and responding positively to the digital and information age.
ĎAmbition & Opportunity: A Strategy for Public Libraries in Scotland 2015-2020' was delivered today to an audience of library stakeholders at the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS) annual conference (1-2 June 2015).
The strategy has been developed to re-invigorate the role and perception of libraries and in particular sets out how libraries can address the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. It builds on the strengths of public libraries as a network of over 600 library service points, visited over 28 million times a year and increasingly online, with a further 13.8 million virtual visits.
The strategy sets out six strategic aims and 18 recommendations to build on the strong heritage of Scotland's libraries. The strategic aims are to promote: reading, literacy and learning; digital inclusion; economic wellbeing; social wellbeing; culture and creativity; and to be excellent public services.
The 18 recommendations include:
- Ensure wifi is available and accessible in all public libraries
- Develop Scotland-wide digital access resources, such as one library card for the whole of Scotland, 24/7 access to virtual libraries and increase access to national and local digital library collections
- Develop partnerships with advice services, job centres and enterprise groups
- Create a model for the provision of co-working spaces in libraries for small businesses
- Support librarians to become effective voices for freedom of information and expression
- Explore alternative approaches for generating financial investment.
The Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) convened an independent working group, chaired by Martyn Evans, Chief Executive of Carnegie Trust UK, to produce the strategy. The group included a number of organisations, including library bodies, Scottish Government, local authorities and third sector organisations, who considered evidence from experts within and out with the library profession, as well as views from members of the public. The group also visited a number of libraries across Scotland in both rural and urban settings. The strategy has the support of the Scottish Government and COSLA.
Commenting on the Strategy, Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs announced, "This first national strategy for Scotland's public libraries builds on the hard work we know takes place in libraries across the country. The strategy offers guidance and direction to fully unlock the power of libraries. Taking forward this first national strategy will help libraries to empower communities, tackle inequality and boost the economy, as well as provide more people with opportunities to learn and to experience local heritage and culture."
Councillor Harry McGuigan, COSLA spokesperson for Community Wellbeing stated:"COSLA is delighted with the national strategy for public libraries in Scotland and gives its full support. The strategy heralds an opportunity to take libraries into the 21st century. It's essential we have libraries that are vibrant and relevant to the needs of our communities. Libraries are evolving into community hubs which support not only reading, literacy and learning, but digital inclusion, economic and social wellbeing, culture and advance creativity. I was very pleased that councils were actively involved in the development of the strategy and that it has been so enthusiastically received. However, to realise the expectations and aspirations set out in the strategy, local government will need sufficient funding."
Martyn Evans, Chief Executive, Carnegie UK, who chaired the strategy group said "Public libraries are the most popular civic resource that local government offers. The 21st century public library has to position itself in a world where immense amounts of knowledge, information and culture can be accessed almost simultaneously, 24 hours a day, through smartphones, tablets and computers. The future success of public libraries in Scotland will depend on how well they respond to the changing needs of communities and an evolving digital world. The strategy provides the measures and steps public library services need to take to achieve this and create an efficient, effective and people-centred public library service."
Gordon Hunt, Chair, SLIC added, "We know that Scotland's libraries are well loved, trusted and valued assets in communities and our research shows that their role is as critical today as it was when they were first established. However, we need to refresh what the service offers and ensure as many people as possible benefit from the services libraries have to offer. The strategy provides a framework to enable libraries to flourish at a local level, helping to build a strong role for libraries in the future."