CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Open Letter to Councillors

Category: News

CILIP in Scotland have written the following open letter intended for all elected members in Scotland:

 

Dear Councillor,

In a few weeks’ time, you may be voting in Council on the budget for your authority in 2017/18. It is possible that the budget proposals in front of you will have an impact on the public and school library services for which your Council is responsible. We write to respectfully ask that, in deciding on any such proposal, you take full account of the benefits and value our libraries deliver.

We ask this because of the unique range of contributions that our libraries make to the life of Scotland– and because they contain the potential to do still more. Scotland’s libraries can be a driving force in our communities. We hope that this short letter will make it clear exactly why that is and how it can be realised.

You may have heard it said that in the age of Google and smartphones, libraries are a thing of the past. That is simply not true. For one thing, 20% of households in Scotland do not have access to the internet. Having physical access, however, does not guarantee having essential digital skills: 30% of the Scottish population do not. Throughout Scotland libraries and librarians in communities, schools, colleges, prisons and other settings are providing that access and enabling citizens to do the learning that will allow them to become active in the digital world.

Digital inclusion is critical but it is not the only reason for investing in Scotland’s libraries.

Libraries are excellent value. For every £1 invested in our public libraries, research shows that they deliver up to £8 worth of benefit.

Libraries touch the lives of our citizens. Over 60% of the population use public libraries, with 28 million visits every year, and that doesn’t take into account those who use libraries in schools or other institutions.

Libraries services cut across Scotland’s key outcomes. Developing digital skills increase employability, improve access to benefits, build social contacts and enable someone to find essential health information. Reading for pleasure can boost attainment, promote literacy, build self-confidence, stimulate mental wellbeing and build social networks. Libraries are spaces within communities that bring people together and create capacity. Bookbug and the vast range of services to children contribute  to giving our youngsters the best possible start in life.

School libraries are a safe and supportive learning environment where all pupils have equal and equitable access to curriculum-related learning resources, both physical and digital, practical support, and information for educational purposes. Schools with school libraries and librarians achieve higher exam scores, leading to higher academic attainment; higher quality project work; successful curriculum and learning outcomes; more positive attitudes towards learning and increased motivation and self-esteem among pupils.

It is this cross-cutting contribution, coupled with the unique reach of libraries, which makes investing in them such good value. We would argue that it also makes further reduction in libraries’ budgets a false economy. Examples of libraries’ specific contributions can be found here:

http://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/publications/speaking-volumes-leaflet-to-view/

Scotland’s librarians are acutely aware of the financial pressures on today’s public services. We know very well the difficulties involved in securing funding. We believe that investment in Scotland’s libraries represents an excellent investment in your residents and their future. Libraries already provide outstanding value for money and are working hard to increase that further. They have unparalleled reach into communities and schools. They have extensive networks and a wealth of solid partnerships. Every £1 spent on a library goes a very long way.

You may have heard it said that public libraries are a non-statutory service. That is not the case. Local authorities are required by law to provide an “adequate” library. It is open to question whether that duty is met by reducing the amount spent on books by almost half, for example.

On behalf of Scotland’s public and school libraries, we respectfully ask that, when framing your budget for the next financial year and beyond, you ask what it means for your library services. You may wish to ask what any budget changes mean for your Council’s ability to implement the National Strategy for Public Libraries in Scotland, agreed last year with the Scottish Government and COSLA.

We believe that libraries matter and we will be campaigning in the lead up to the local government election in May on behalf of school and public libraries in Scotland.

We also invite you to come and see for yourself. We would be very happy to talk to you and tell you more about the exciting, innovative work going on across Scotland’s libraries. Can we also suggest you visit your local library, in the community or school, and talk to the staff and the library users there. Find out what they get from being in a library and what the library can do in the future. We think you will be amazed and inspired by the contribution our libraries make.

Yours, 

CILIP in Scotland