CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Scotland’s Public Libraries: Enabling and inspiring citizens, fulfilling policy goals

Category: Inspiration for the Nation 2016

Guest Blog by Jenny Peachey, Policy Officer, Carnegie UK Trust as part of the ‘Scotland’s Libraries: Inspiration for the Nation’ Campaign. 

At the Carnegie UK Trust we are calling on policymakers to recognise libraries’ contribution to policy goals and how vital they are in forging a future worth having.  Why? Because public libraries are good for us in more ways than most people realise: they can act as social hubs, centres for learning, a focus for cultural activities and as economic enablers, inspiring citizens and enabling them to fulfil our potential.

Library as Social Hub

Libraries play a role in building safe, strong and shared communities. Consider the reminiscence groups held in libraries throughout Perth and Kinross, working to encourage engagement with the library service, increase cultural participation, reduce isolation and improve sense of wellbeing. In a different vein, Fife libraries promote health and connections, through combining reading and walking groups – whilst High Life Highland delivers a programme of events that combine mental activity and physical exercise in libraries and leisure centres.

Library as Learning Hub

Andrew Carnegie saw libraries as creating opportunity and making opportunity more equal. A hundred years on, libraries continue to help people reach their potential. Edinburgh City Libraries’ Dyslexia Chatterbooks initiative is a reading group offering a safe environment for children with dyslexia to enjoy reading and East Kilbide’s digiTable has introduced interactive story-telling sessions to encourage interest in reading for pleasure among school children. And, of course,  many libraries signpost to adult learning services, provide adult language courses and run Book Bug sessions.

Library as Cultural Centre

Creating a vibrant creative economy is just one way in which libraries inspire citizens and act as cultural centres. Edinburgh City Libraries’ Digital Toyboxes are a type of mobile makerspace. Six boxes, each containing different types of kit, are rotated among different libraries with staff delivering kit-based sessions to teens. Meanwhile, Dundee Central Library – the first library in Scotland to secure a 3D printer – utilises 3D printing in their services for groups with additional support needs. Groups create characters that are used in storytelling sessions in the children’s library to help enhance the experience for children who are blind, or partially sighted.

Library as Economic Enabler

Libraries contribute to the creation of a wealthier and fairer country, supporting individuals with CVs, job applications and skills. They also support digital skills, providing access to WiFi and new technology. Some work in partnership such as with Business Gateway to deliver tailored courses free of charge at times to suit local businesses.

New Databases

In these ways, libraries contribute to wider social policy goals, deliver on Scotland’s national outcomes and enhance the wellbeing of individuals and communities. The Trust’s new databases pool examples that demonstrate the impact public libraries in the UK and Ireland can have. We hope that the databases will help those advocating for the continued relevance and value of public libraries by providing them with a reference point for the wide range of contributions libraries can make to society.

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