Libraries are gateways to a thousand worlds, and social security for a better Scotland - Joshua King

I remember one summer when I was a child stopping at a library on the way to a family holiday at Ness.

Scotland's libraries are under threat - what would a future without them look like? Picture by JANE BARLOW
Scotland's libraries are under threat - what would a future without them look like? Picture by JANE BARLOW

We paused at our local library - Blackhall - to stock up on books for those inevitable rainy Hebridean days.

I bundled up my usual fare: young adult fiction, graphic novels, audio books and something spooky from Stephen King.

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Among them I had also chosen - from some shelf deeper in the library I’d never explored before - a book about angling and Scottish saltwater fish.

I don’t remember why - perhaps I was enchanted by the cover or the prospect of something new.

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But I do remember reading it cover to cover at that Ness house, sitting in the porch overlooking the harbour. I can remember passages of it even now.

Looking back, it reminds me that libraries are the soul of our society; the sum total of shared knowledge from our forebears to be shared with the next generation.

Say, snippets of fishing wisdom for wide-eyed kids.

But more than that, libraries are an extension of our homes.

A place to visit as family, to shelter from cold and rain, to find help which can mean the difference between children being fed or being hungry.

Libraries are a gateway to thousands of imagined worlds.

But they are also a door to a better society for many who otherwise would have no place to apply for Universal Credit, for support with housing or children or disability or job-seeking.

Whether you think about libraries in lofty terms or nostalgic ones, practical terms or political ones, they are social security for this and the next generation.

Libraries are unquestionably a gift for our children: to teach them, to shelter them, to feed them, to protect them.

If that is not enough to save them, then what does that say about Scotland?

What does that say about us?

Joshua King, Live News Editor

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