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#LibrariesAreEssential – Supportive Quotes

#LibrariesAreEssential Scotland's Stories 'Supportive Quotes' logo, with white text on a blue library background

Here are just some of the supportive quotes that we’ve received so far as part of our #LibrariesAreEssential – Scotland’s Stories campaign. Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed, articulating the vital value of our nation’s libraries to Scotland’s story now more than ever.


Kathleen Jamie, Makar (National Poet for Scotland)

‘We didn’t have many books in the house when I was wee but we went to the library every other week. Language, books, libraries, worlds! There were excitements, adventures, story-books you could lose yourself in, away from everything, and then give back – and free, for everyone. What an extraordinary invention is a library.’


Damian Barr, award-winning and bestselling writer, broadcaster and journalist, and #CILIPS22 keynote speaker

‘Newarthill Library is where I hid when things were tough at home. I sat cross-legged on the floor between shelves where nobody else could see me and did my homework or devoured the latest Stephen King novel because I couldn’t take it out with my children’s card. It was the only place where the bullies who called me “poof” wouldn’t follow, the book dust in the air was fatal to them – or maybe it was the librarian staring them down. It’s where I found Narnia and NIMH and A Boy’s Own Story. It’s where I found the words to start to make a different life for myself. When we close libraries we shut doors to the future. We are saying to children: “Stay where you are, no further.” Newarthill Library saved my life by helping me imagine a new one. Everyone deserves the chance – to connect with their community, to enjoy the worlds within books, to tell and, if they want, change their own story. Every library – and every librarian – is essential.


Kirstin Innes, prize-winning author of Fishnet and Scabby Queen

‘Growing up lonely in an area with few other children and a single mum who worked all the hours she could manage, I spent a lot of time after school at the library, two minutes from my grandma’s house. I always sat at the big table under the clock: as long as I was back at grandma’s by 5.30 for dinner, the space was all mine. The world opened, the friends I lacked in real life came right off the pages. By offering me unfettered access to as wide a range of different voices as its shelves could hold, that library made me a novelist.

What’s exceptional about libraries is that they’re the one remaining public indoor space that people can be in for free. No cost. In this late-capitalist world of £3 flat whites and toilet taxes, that makes them palaces of subversion. It also means they can’t be monetised, which chafes against the way most local councils currently seem to think of their services. The people who attend libraries are not customers. They are humans, existing in a space, accessing knowledge, internet or resources.’


Jenny Niven, Chair of Literature Alliance Scotland and Director of Push The Boat Out, Edinburgh’s International Poetry Festival

‘So much of what we value in Scottish society – education, democracy, equality of access, inclusion – is embodied by public libraries. Where else can everyone, regardless of income, have access to books and ideas from across the world, free of charge, in a safe, supported, community driven environment? To access services which are their democratic right to be provided with? To look for jobs, to build connections, and to stay informed in the challenging, polarised circumstances of today? To read, widely, and be supported to do so?

While libraries have evolved radically in the services they provide across Scotland, their DNA has not changed and consistently provide us with the means to read widely, to expand our horizons, to build empathy and understanding, and to travel imaginatively. We want this for all of our citizens, especially our children, and support CILIPS in their campaign to make libraries a key issue in the upcoming Scottish elections.

It is our duty to protect both the idea of the public library and their bricks and mortar presence in communities, and in schools. Literature Alliance Scotland urges all of our constituent members and our wider community of readers, writers, publishers and educators to express their support for libraries.’


Heather Parry, award-winning writer and Society of Authors in Scotland Senior Policy and Liaison Manager

‘Every writer starts as a reader, and many of us start as readers in libraries. But libraries are not just about the love of books; they’re about parent-and-baby groups, access to the internet, support with forms and personal admin, meet ups with friends, having a space to work, learning something new and knowing a place you can go that’s safe, free and full of new worlds. More than repositories of books, libraries are community centres and inspiration hubs. They are essential to our lives, perhaps now more than ever.’


Leela Soma, author and poet and founder of the Kavya Prize for Scottish BPOC writers

‘I was born in the civilisation that had the Vedic tradition. ‘Veda’ meaning ‘to know’ the oral tradition of knowledge handed down to generations then inscribed on palm leaves, birch barks and materials available to man. The oldest university, Nalanda in Patna, (note the connection to the little village in Ayrshire) was a repository of knowledge from the world over. Knowledge, literature, books, and reading are the cornerstones of all civilisations. As Thiruvallvar ( 1st century BC) the Tamil poet wrote “The most valuable wealth of a man is his knowledge, which cannot be destroyed; all other riches that he has gained are not considered to be wealth at all”. I was fortunate to be always surrounded by books at home. Madras had Connemara Library and Madras University Library, both of which I used for research work during my Master’s course. When I arrived in Scotland in 1969, I was thrilled to get my yellow paper ticket from Hillhead Library in Byres Road. It opened new worlds to me of Scottish writers. At a time when the Taliban has banned girls from attending school, my heart bleeds for societies where one gender is excluded from reading.  Libraries are inclusive, with equality of access to all. Libraries are the heartbeat of every community. They must be nurtured and cherished. A bundle of books from the library is the teacher without a classroom. Let us treasure it.’


Ali Bowden, Director of Edinburgh City of Literature Trust

‘Libraries are an essential part of the ecology of a literary city. Reading is Scotland’s favourite cultural activity, which has proven health benefits as evidenced by a Scottish Government study. At their local library, residents of all ages can freely access literature, including ebooks, audiobooks and newspapers, and we know that reading for pleasure boosts young people’s life chances and helps to improve literacy. Libraries sit at the hearts of our communities playing a hugely important role, and we must commit to protecting them and the services they provide.’


Kerry Hudson, award-winning author and keynote speaker at the CILIPS 2021 Annual Conference

‘It is no overstatement to say I wouldn’t be alive today without having access to libraries as a child and young woman who grew up in extreme poverty. Mine is only one of thousands of similar stories of the vital importance of well-funded, well-facilitated libraries. Decades later they remain a safe, warm, nourishing, completely free space for our most vulnerable, as well as avenues of true social mobility and community gathering. Their value in a society that cares about its citizens cannot be overestimated.’


Jackie Kay, internationally-acclaimed poet, playwright and novelist, and Scotland’s Makar 2016-2021

‘My dear dad used the library all his life, still going there into his 90s. When I asked him what a library meant to him, he said :

“Browse, borrow, request, renew – lovely words to me.
A library card in your hand is your democracy.”

Words that went straight into my poem, Dear Library.

It is hard to overstate how important libraries are. They are portals to whole new worlds; they open the door of your own mind.


Ian Rankin, prize-winning author and playwright, including of the internationally best-selling Rebus series

‘Libraries have been a crucial part of my life since I was a kid. There weren’t many books in my house but my parents encouraged me to use the local library. I’ve been using them ever since – for fun and to research my own books. I’d be lost without them.’


Nick Poole, CEO of CILIP and Chair of Wikipedia UK

‘#LibrariesAreEssential for everyone, young or old, rich or poor. No matter who you are or where you come from, everyone deserves the access to local opportunity and support that only a quality library can provide.’


Peggy Hughes, former Chair of Literature Alliance Scotland and Executive Director of The National Centre for Writing

‘Libraries change lives. They’re the beating heart of local communities and make a profound impact on our lives. They provide the answer to social isolation and loneliness, health and wellbeing, digital exclusion, literature, literacy, education, reading and economic recovery. When people walk through the doors of a library they enter a different place, a sanctuary of democratic access to knowledge and learning wrapped up in a safe, warm space with qualified staff on hand to help. If we want a brighter future, we need to start with libraries because libraries are essential.’


Ann Cleeves, internationally acclaimed author and twice-winner of the Dagger in the Library award

‘When we read, we see the world through other people’s eyes, and live other people’s lives. Libraries open minds.’


Ali Smith, author (including of Public Library and Other Stories!) Winner of the Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year, Whitbread Novel of the Year, the Women’s Prize for Fiction, the Folio Prize and the Goldsmiths Prize, and four-times shortlisted for the Booker Prize

‘Public libraries are the beating heart of communal thought.’


Marc Lambert, CEO of Scottish Book Trust

‘Libraries have always been essential to a brighter future, and never more so than now. Libraries are beacons of light, illuminating communities and individuals through all that they freely offer by way of books, information, learning, entertainment and enlightenment. Libraries build better lives full stop. They are as essential to the health and wellbeing of our communities as any other social service. Without libraries, there is little hope of creating a better and more equal society. Building a country where everyone has an interest in participating in, and nurturing, democratic ideals and practices, starts – you guessed it – with a visit to the library.’


Paul McNamee, UK Editor, The Big Issue

‘Covid has reinforced the vital role of strong, local communities. Throughout the crisis, it was generous, public-spirited people within their local areas who went above and beyond to help those struggling with any number of burdens. Whether helping with shopping for those housebound, or establishing support networks, or simply being a smile and a wave through a window, that essential caring aspect rose as lockdown tightened. This is clear and known.

As we emerge from lockdown, maintaining an anchor in communities will be more vital than ever. Libraries are those anchors. They are the places where plans can be struck to improve the lot of everyone. They are a place of refuge for the lonely and the dispossessed. And while that may seem beyond the libraries’ remit, name another free, public space of warm non-judgemental shelter that can serve the entire community in this way.

They are, of course, a place for those without good internet access – a contemporary utility that is way beyond a luxury, but still not available to all. And they are a place of possibility, of books and adventure, and of life-changing potential.

To keep them locked is not just folly. It’s an act of social gerrymandering.’


Alastair Brian, Ferret Fact Service

‘Misinformation is a significant problem in public discourse, and politicians have a responsibility to make sure what they say is factual and does not mislead. But they must also empower and protect those organisations and professionals countering misinformation and promoting accurate and well-sourced content.

Librarians and information professionals play an important part in this by ensuring the public can get accurate and well-sourced information, and often providing teaching to young people in schools about information literacy and the dangers of false information.’


Gillian Docherty OBE, CEO, The Data Lab

‘The library to me was a place of learning, challenge, peace and meaning and somewhere I really enjoyed going before lockdown. Our libraries are community spaces and places of significant importance in the hearts of where we live, and they can provide so much to our people from simply access to books and other material through to being a hub for work and learning. Our libraries were the original databases and data lakes, and our librarians the original data curators and so much more.  Libraries in 2021 and beyond can be so much more when we are now more accustomed to working from home or indeed working locally – we can reimagine the role libraries have to play as we build back better and bring to life the future we aspire to.’


Professor David Wilson, criminologist, academic, author and presenter

‘I’m with Henry Ward Beecher: “libraries are not a luxury but one of the necessities of life”. #LibrariesAreEssential and my home town of Carluke’s library especially so.’


Marsali Taylor, acclaimed author of the Shetland Sailing Mysteries and more

‘Libraries aren’t “just books”. They’re a pathway to accurate information, a gateway into other cultures, a chance for people to use computers. They’re a warm reading space for people in cold flats, a meeting place for fellow-readers. They’re the place where a trained librarian will help you through difficult forms, or give you a book that will change your thinking, maybe your life, or find that vital piece of research for you. For school pupils, a librarian will help them with school projects and give them books they can’t resist reading – books that will help their learning, broaden their horizons, let them know they’re not alone, or take them on amazing adventures. Libraries matter!’


Maisie Chan, writer and founder of the Glasgow Children’s Writers Group

‘Libraries have been essential to my well-being both as an adult and as a child. It was a trusted place I could go to find out information about my local area when I moved to a new city. It’s also been a place to expand my knowledge by reading and I’ve instilled that love of reading in my children. If you want to improve the educational literacy of a nation then you have to support libraries.’


Professor Ian Welsh CBE, CEO of Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland

‘Carnegie said that a library is ‘a never failing spring in the desert’. For me, it is a gateway to the universe.’


Shelagh Toonen, Chair of School Libraries Group Scotland, Elgin Academy Librarian and Winner of CILIPS Library and Information Professional of the Year 2018

‘Libraries are essential to developing our children and young people with all the skills necessary for our future Scotland. School libraries empower and educate; they provide equality of access and they provide support for young people in their lifelong learning. Libraries are pivotal in providing the foundations for a positive future in Scotland.’

‘School libraries have a huge impact on all young people. On their learning and attainment and on their health and wellbeing. They provide a safe space to think, to create, to share, to grow and to read. They are the hub of learning and the favourite place for many pupils. We believe that libraries are essential and are committed to supporting this CILIPS campaign.’


Ian Murray MP, Labour Member of Parliament for Edinburgh South and Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

‘I don’t think we can support our libraries enough. They are a lifeline to many in south Edinburgh.’


Brian Sloan, Chief Executive of Age Scotland 

‘Scotland’s libraries are often hubs of local communities. They are a vital resource for many older people across the country and have long been a safe space, not only for accessing books and reference materials but also trusted information sources and computer technology.

Digital training programmes offered by local libraries have helped reduce digital exclusion, while dedicated staff help protect against the dangers of misinformation – both issues that have become more prominent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, as Scotland gradually emerges from the pandemic, we hope to see libraries re-open their doors and continue providing vital services.  A reduction in these services risks negatively impacting older people’s ability to engage in social and lifelong learning opportunities and may inhibit the learning of new skills such as digital technology.’


Alison Irvine, Saltire Award-nominated author and former Scottish Book Trust reader in residence for East Dunbartonshire Libraries

‘I have spent my life in and out of libraries. I’ve studied, written, read, browsed job advertisements and searched up long-lost family members. I’ve taken my children to Bounce and Rhyme sessions and after school craft clubs. I’ve attended drop-in information sessions about local projects and I’ve borrowed books. Libraries are vibrant, well used and essential spaces for all citizens. They are hubs of learning and investigating and an integral part of modern life.’

You can also read Alison’s Love Letter to my Library, inspired by the poem Dear Library by Jackie Kay.


Maxim Jakubowski, Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association

‘The Crime Writers’ Association gladly endorses any proposal that keeps libraries open and active and encourages reading in all its forms and diversity.’


Connect: supporting partnerships in education (Scottish Parent Teacher Council)

‘Libraries, and in particular school libraries, are essential for supporting families, children and young people as they develop literacy and research skills. These skills unlock all learning and are skills for life. Libraries are also crucial information hubs, providing access for all families to help and support in their own communities. As places where anyone can go, libraries – and especially school libraries – can represent a safe haven, a managed space for peace, quiet and learning.’


Michelle Armstrong at Playlist for Life: sharing the power of personal music for people living with Dementia

‘Libraries are a vital part of the community in so many areas across Scotland. Libraries keep communities connected and we need them now more than ever.’


Donald S. Murray, author, poet, journalist, playwright and teacher

‘As a youngster growing up at the north end of the Isle of Lewis in the Western Isles, one of the highlights of my early life was the visit of the library van to our local primary school. It brought a welcome break from the routine of chalk and blackboard. It widened the narrowness of our horizon, especially on dull or rainy days. Most importantly, its arrival quickened my curiosity, preparing me for my future careers as an English teacher and author. Stories helped make sense of and add purpose to my life. I owe a huge debt to that library van. Without its arrival at our school-gate, this existence would not have been possible.’


Diana Hendry, poet, children’s author and short story writer

‘I would not have become a children’s writer without libraries. I came from a non-bookish family. We had a set of very small print Dickens in a locked bookcase. But … in the village where I lived there were four libraries! There was a library in the nearby town hall and by borrowing the lending tickets of my two sisters, I could borrow a number of books. Then there was the library which, at the time, Boots ran. Plus two newsagents who had their own libraries, one of them just a little salacious. On a Saturday I would make a tour of all these and return home with treasure for the week.’


Alison Belsham, author of The Tattoo Thief

‘No one should need to have the value of libraries explained to them – they’re an absolutely essential community resource and the closure of libraries diminishes our society in a multitude of ways.’


James Oswald, author of the Inspector McLean series, The Ballad of Sir Benfro series and the Constance Fairchild series of novels

‘Libraries are the bedrock of any civilised society, closing them cultural vandalism at its worst. Every community needs a place where knowledge is truly free to the user, unlike the internet with all its hidden equipment and connection costs. Libraries are that place. They should be among the last services to cut in straightened times, not the first.’


Caroline Wickham-Jones, author and archaeologist

‘Libraries serve the whole community: young and old. Books seed so much: discussion; information; fun; relaxation. They can bring people together or provide space for those who need time apart.’


Anne-Mary Wharton, author and freelance writer

‘As an author and a freelance writer libraries, in particular reference sections, are essential for me to find background information. I also need to borrow books that will be useful for this.’


Dr Bill Manley, Egyptologist, university lecturer, museum curator and best-selling author

‘A healthy nation, looking to a hopeful, thoughtful future, needs literate, well educated children. Literate, well educated children require books and knowledge, which are so much more than screens and the news. What is a library other than where communities make their books and knowledge a valued, public resources.’


Angela Blacklock-Brown, writer and photographer

In times of financial hardship, the library is a haven where people can escape into a different word, to where each and every book can take them and the possibilities are endless.’


Brian St. Pierre, food and wine writer

‘Many of us who grew up without access to really good schools managed to close that gap in libraries. With books, we never walked alone, we were part of a very large community, and we found ways to make ourselves useful in and to it, and to ourselves as well. Libraries are an essential step upward, from wherever we start, all the way to the finish line.’


Esther Woolfson, V.S. Pritchett award-winning author, shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize and the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize

‘There’s nothing more important for a society than the provision of libraries— free, well-funded and accessible to all. We must have libraries in every village, town and city, in every school and institution. Fundamental to ideas of shared knowledge, enlightenment, democracy and equality, libraries are vital in civilised societies. Without them, knowledge is circumscribed and books become the domain of only those who can afford to buy them. I try to use every opportunity to express gratitude to my local library, Aberdeen Central Library. Without it, my life during the decades I’ve lived here, would have been immeasurably reduced. Without this wonderful library and its resources, I wouldn’t have been able to write as I have done.’


Margaret Skea, author (Sanderling Books)

‘Libraries open up the world to folk, allowing them to experience times and places and events that they cannot experience physically, enriching their lives and broadening their horizons in a myriad of different ways.’


Lucy Ribchester, novelist, short story writer and dance journalist

‘Libraries are absolute lifelines, treasure troves and havens for people of all ages, from all walks of life. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve struck up a conversation with someone in a library (I know, shhhh), all of whom are using libraries for different reasons; access to computers, a quiet place to sit with a paper, a place to sit dipping into books to stave off loneliness; somewhere stimulating and soothing to take the toddlers before your brain explodes because you’ve been stuck in the house with them all day; somewhere to conduct your crucial research with books you can’t afford to buy; somewhere to keep you reading for pleasure when your finances drop off a cliff and you can no longer afford to buy books; somewhere to sit and work because you can’t afford to rent an office and your flatmates are noisy; somewhere to get essential advice and access to information for citizenship and life purposes. A world without libraries would be a darker, sadder place for many people.’


Dr Ian Mertling-Blake, prize-winning poet

‘Libraries are especially important – invaluable – here in the Highlands and Islands: not only for access to books countrywide, but also for providing access to the internet for those who do not have it at home, or whose homes are still badly served by broadband.’


Dr Rebecca DeWald, translator, editor and writer

‘Books are an essential part of our lives, providing us with knowledge, wisdom, entertainment and empathy, and letting us escape our own world for a little while. The pandemic has proven how vital books are for our wellbeing and libraries provide these free of charge, accessible to everyone and anyone, and thus make our world just a little more equal.’


Elizabeth Laird, award-winning children’s author

‘Books are food for the mind, and libraries and librarians are the kitchens and cooks who provide it. We’re angry when children are deprived of food. We should be angry when they’re denied access to books.’


Douglas Skelton, crime writer

‘Libraries are not only essential in these troubled times, they are a gateway to new worlds, information and education. They must be preserved!’


Michael Allaby, Aventis Junior prize-winning author

‘It was in our local public library that, as a child, I discovered the love of books that has sustained me throughout my life, as well as a vast universe of fascinating and valuable knowledge. Depriving people of that access is, in my view, a crime against humanity.’


Aline Templeton, crime writer and author of the DI Marjory Fleming series

‘I am an author whose love of reading was fostered in various libraries all through my childhood and I still use them all the time, for research and, not least, for recreation. It would be wicked to deny the chances we were able to take for granted to the child growing up today, particularly the child whose parent cannot afford books or the child whose parent is struggling with a foreign language and who needs a librarian’s help to find what they need.’


James Robertson, poet, novelist, short story writer and editor, working in English and Scots

‘Andrew Carnegie, the great benefactor of public libraries, said: “There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library; this republic of letters, where neither rank, office nor wealth receives the slightest consideration. A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never-failing spring in the desert.”

We live in a digital age which is rife with misinformation and encourages a narrowing, not a broadening, of viewpoints. A library full of real, physical books the contents of which cannot be manipulated or altered, is a fortress against this trend, and equally vital are the professional librarians who staff it and who uphold the basic principles of free thinking and free speech. A society that does not nurture, protect and properly resource its network of libraries is heading for trouble.’


Mandy Haggith, writer and environmental activist

‘Libraries are essential because they make reading and learning available to everyone, regardless of wealth or ability or background. They bring joy to so many people and enrich our society. Libraries are the trees in our cultural forest.’


William Morris

‘Edinburgh’s Libraries have provided me with the inspiration and spaces to create. My interests and work would not have been able to flourish without access to the diverse voices and incredible discoveries library lending has offered.’


Jennifer Morag Henderson, author, editor and biographer

‘Libraries are essential for me as a writer – but also as a reader and a mother.’

Read more here about Jennifer’s support for our campaign and how libraries like the Highland Archive Centre and Inverness Central Library reference/special collections are essential to her work.


Alastair Scott, author, broadcaster and lecturer

‘Libraries inform, inspire, entertain & nurture. As a youngster, libraries were a source of wonder to me – a colourful new world of knowledge, questions, answers and travel both inwards and outwards. They were places of inspiration, security and comfort. I went to hear authors speak and eventually became an author myself. Now I probably give more talks in libraries than in any other venue. Every time I do so I’m struck anew by the enthusiasm library staff have for books and the love of their work. The internet is no substitute for a library – there is nothing to compare with being in the physical presence of thousands of books, the allure of spines and titles that lead you places you’d never normally visit. And this place is staffed by guides too – marvellous! We cannot know or compute in monetary terms, in happiness, in fulfilment, in successful careers, in the benefit to worldwide humanity that libraries have spawned and nurtured…and continue to spawn and nurture. Why should we even try? We know their value is incalculable. To threaten our libraries with closure is as senseless as willingly reducing our oxygen. Oh give us all the wisdom to cherish what is good for us and what we need – and libraries are precious amongst them.

I believe passionately in preserving our libraries. They started with subscription libraries which restricted borrowings to those who could afford the costs. When they became free, what a universal blessing they became. I can’t believe we are considering turning back the clock and closing down a resource that has been a foundation of ‘education’ in its literal sense, ‘a leading out of the mind’. Never has the opening of minds been more important.’


Library readers during lockdown, who accessed the BorrowBox app (powered by Bolinda) for free via their local libraries

‘I think, especially with the current situation we find ourselves facing, that the ability to still access our libraries is a Godsend. Thank you to all library staff. We appreciate you in person and via this website.’

‘This is an excellent system and was recommended to me by a librarian. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone. Thank you!’

‘I truly appreciate having access to eAudiobooks and eBooks… a fantastic way to be able to read and listen to a variety of books. I absolutely love it, thank you.’

‘Really enjoying this library service – a real bonus during lockdown.’

‘This has been a lifesaver during lockdown!’


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