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Save our Public Libraries

Our June briefing looks at the role of public libraries in our communities and the threat to that provision from spending cuts.

Our public library system has a special place in the work of the Jimmy Reid Foundation. His extensive reading nurtured Jimmy’s political seeds, starting before he went to school and developing into a lifelong passion. Like so many working-class families, there weren’t many books in the home as they were expensive, so Govan Library became a regular haunt.

Like other local government services, libraries are under financial pressure. 83 public libraries have closed in Scotland since 2009/10, with spending cut by 30 per cent over the same period. This is despite yearly visitor numbers increasing by over 40 per cent. Many more libraries have cut their opening hours and reduced staff. This is not unique to Scotland; spending on libraries in Britain has fallen by 17%, despite in-person visits increasing by 68% since the pandemic lockdown.

This briefing looks at the inadequate statutory requirements that underpin provision in Scotland, and the current strategies. We analyse the financial pressures and the impact on a reducing workforce. We argue that libraries are an essential part of the social infrastructure that helps maintain and develop our communities. Access to books is a human right for children at least; let’s ensure we deliver that right for the next generation.