CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Libraries are important

Category: Inspiration for the Nation 2016

Guest Blog by Larry Flanagan, General Secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) as part of the ‘Scotland’s Libraries: Inspiration for the Nation’ Campaign. 

Libraries are important; school libraries, in particular, are essential. Contrary to perceived opinion reading is not a dying art – young people, by and large, are engaged readers who enjoy stories and narrative every bit as much as their predecessors. It is true that these days books have to compete for the attention of young people with a greater range of competitors than in the past but that simply means that we need to ensure barriers to reading, to accessing books are broken down.

As I am teacher of English you may suspect a little bias on my part but libraries have been such a key part of both my working and private life, that the thought of losing or diminishing this huge cultural resource is one which exercises me greatly.

As a child I was regularly sent to the public library for the family “order” – a “detective” for my Dad and a “romance” for Mum (a little gendered I know); I then had about twenty glorious minutes to choose from the children’s shelves for myself whilst the librarian sorted out the adult request.

Books, and reading, were important and libraries meant we could all access their richness.

In the 1980s I represented the east end of Castlemilk on Glasgow District Council. The scheme then was a huge estate with few amenities – not a single bank, for example, for a population the size of Perth. But it had a library, and a very well used one at that – books, newspapers, magazines, and later the start of computer access. It was a community asset which spoke to the very nature of what community meant.

You see that continuing today, especially in schools where the school library is often the shared hub of school life – selecting and reading books, private and group study, career planning, project work, research, celebrating school life and success.

And at the centre of all that is the librarian – organising and supporting and bringing her/his expertise to bear.

No-one doubts the financial pressure that local authorities are under because of the UK inspired austerity agenda but it would be a fundamental folly to sacrifice our library service on that particular altar. We should cherish these hallmarks of civic pride and community – more than ever.

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