Support our Libraries: 'We need a local and national government funding model that allows them to thrive' - Sean McNamara

We believe libraries are essential. They are an essential public service and provide social infrastructure when our societies and democracies need it most.

Sean McNamara, Head of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS). Picture: Contributed

It has been wonderful to see Scotland on Sunday’s campaign getting such widespread backing and that it has got under the bonnet and looked at why other countries financially support their libraries sometimes more than we do in Scotland and the wider UK.

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We represent 1,200 incredible library workers across all sectors including public, school, academic and other types of libraries. These skilled workers and their organisations genuinely change lives. They improve equality by providing access for all and reduce the digital divide by providing essential computer skills. They act as education and learning providers for those who cannot do this elsewhere and are a vital part of fighting misinformation. They are proven to reduce loneliness and social isolation and have proven long term health and economic benefits for the whole country.

Not only that but they are hugely popular with 28 million visits a year to public libraries, they support the UN sustainable development goals and are the only place in most communities where you can go in with no expectation to spend any money. That seems simple but in today’s world is increasingly challenging.

We believe it is complete folly to not value libraries and this is backed by an overwhelming majority of the public. Everyone needs libraries at some stage of their lives, and they need to be there for when people need them – whether that be a young parent needing Bookbug for their child, a young person discovering reading for pleasure in their school library, a teenager studying for exams in school or writing an essay for university or just someone needing the equitable access to resources and digital that libraries provide.

Their relevance continues as libraries and their workers continue to evolve. A new Scottish Government backed National Strategy is in place for libraries, setting an exciting roadmap for the role they can play in communities. This is through their core offer but also by providing access to new and emerging technologies as well as supporting communities to be more sustainable. A well-funded, resourced and professionally staffed network of libraries should be a no brainer for any society that genuinely cares about ‘levelling up’. The value politicians place on library services is a clear sign of how they respect their communities and the equity of access our society needs.

Libraries in many other countries are rightly seen as a long-term savings and key to a functioning democracy. This function is the same in Scotland, but they need consistent funding and support. The case for libraries is undeniable and evidence backed, and we need a local and national government funding model that allows them to thrive. We and many others support libraries, and we call on everyone to do the same in next year’s local government elections. Challenge your candidates on what they would do for libraries and let’s ensure Scotland has the essential engines of social connectivity we need.

Sean McNamara is Head of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS)

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