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#LibrariesAreEssential – Campaign Press Release

Category: News

National body calls for politicians to recognise ‘essential’ value of libraries in Scotland

Award-winning authors and poets back campaign asking that libraries are protected post-pandemic

A national campaign to champion Scotland’s library services in the face of post-pandemic financial pressure has been launched, backed by key organisations and award-winning writers and poets including Jackie Kay, Ann Cleeves, Ali Smith and Kerry Hudson.

They are supporting the ‘Libraries Are Essential’ campaign from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS), which runs in the lead up to the elections on 3rd May 2021. This nationwide campaign seeks to counteract the threat of closure and reduction in vital library services by championing libraries as a driving force for good in Scottish society: the beating hearts of our communities that will be more essential than ever following the devastating impact of Covid-19 and extended lockdowns.

Kerry Hudson, award-winning author of Lowborn said:

‘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, Scotland’s third Makar and internationally celebrated poet said:

‘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.’

Public libraries welcomed 43 million visits a year pre-pandemic, making them more popular than Scotland’s professional football matches, with 20 million books borrowed every year. They are also excellent value, delivering a return of up to seven times what they cost to run through the essential contribution they make to Scottish society. Libraries provide vital digital skills and access for all, playing a key role in combating digital exclusion, and evidence shows that they also contribute to improving mental health and reducing social isolation: support that will be in huge demand as our nation recovers from the pandemic’s protracted impact. 65% of Scots ‘strongly oppose’ trained library staff being replaced by volunteers, with a further 17% ‘tending to oppose’ the idea: the most emphatic rejection of the suggestion anywhere in the UK, indicating that Scottish citizens care especially deeply about their libraries continuing to be staffed by a trained and dedicated workforce.

School libraries in particular make a vital contribution to supporting literacy and raising attainment. Indeed, research shows that professionally trained librarians help pupils to achieve better exam results, as well as providing an essential, highly-skilled source of support for digital literacy as young people negotiate the dangers of an increasingly online world. It is no surprise to us that librarians are one of the top five ‘most trusted’ professions in the UK. Meanwhile, academic libraries have been an essential backbone for students who could no longer attend classes, with Scotland’s health librarians likewise facilitating essential, evidence-based research that is proving key to combating the virus.

The campaign – which has already gained support from many key organisations across Scotland – will target candidates standing in the approaching Parliament elections. It will ask that, if elected, they support all libraries and the essential contribution that they make to community cohesion, social and economic wellbeing, digital skills and literacy. Library supporters are also being encouraged to get involved on Twitter and Instagram using #LibrariesAreEssential to share case studies, supportive quotes, creative responses and more.

Quotes from organisations with many more available here:

Sean McNamara, Head of CILIP in Scotland said: ‘We are pleased to launch the Libraries are Essential campaign and encourage library supporters Scotland-wide to join in by sharing online and with your candidates why libraries are essential to you – and to our nation. As we come out of the pandemic, library services will be more important than ever and should be supported. They have services addressing Scotland’s key outcomes and their value reaches beyond access to books to digital inclusion, community cohesion, health and wellbeing and more.’

Marc Lambert, CEO of Scottish Book Trust said: ‘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.’

Brian Sloan, Chief Executive of Age Scotland said: ‘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.’


for further information, please contact Sean McNamara –

Notes to Editor

Link to campaign

About CILIP in Scotland

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland works in partnership with CILIP to advocate the value of library and information professionals’ skills to society and to support members of CILIP in Scotland in attaining and retaining professional qualifications. CILIP in Scotland is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation Registration No: SCO38532


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