Support our Libraries: 'Concern' over lack of provision in Dumfries and Galloway

The industry body for Scotland's libraries has warned it is “concerned” about the level of service in Dumfries and Galloway after it emerged some libraries are only open for ten hours a week.

Banners from protesters outside the Scottish Parliament calling for libraries to be reopened in September. Picture: Lisa Ferguson/JPIMedia





SAVE OUR LIBRARIES  PROTEST AT THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT
Banners from protesters outside the Scottish Parliament calling for libraries to be reopened in September. Picture: Lisa Ferguson/JPIMedia SAVE OUR LIBRARIES PROTEST AT THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT

CILIP Scotland (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland) said that while most libraries had reopened since the pandemic, in the Dumfries and Galloway area, two – believed to be East Riggs and Lochside - had not, while the number of hours libraries are open has been reduced by 60 per cent. It warned the service was likely to fall behind offerings elsewhere in Scotland.

The council yesterday closed a consultation over the use of libraries – described as “Customer Service Centres” – where the public can, among other things, collect commercial and domestic waste sacks, bus timetables and.

It said during the pandemic, timetables had been revised to enable customers to access library and customer services on separate days.

The consultation, it states, is to ensure services “reflect future user needs, are sustainable and able to operate within the budgets available”.

In a letter, Sean McNamara, head of CILIP Scotland, wrote: “We would strongly urge you to use library usage from before the pandemic, because library services will once again be essential to communities as they emerge from the impact of the past 18 months.

Libraries will never be more important in reconnecting communities, reducing social isolation, supporting health and wellbeing, strengthening economic development and providing access to much needed resources for adults and young people."

He added: “Across Scotland, libraries are reopening and serving the communities that desperately need them. However, we are concerned at the level of service available in Dumfries and Galloway. As you will know, an appropriately resourced public library service, open and available at the times people need it, demonstrates the value a local authority places on its community, whilst also meeting the requirements of the Local Government Act and Equalities Act.”

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“Libraries tackle social isolation and support mental health and wellbeing as evidenced by the Scottish Government. Libraries also play a key role in supporting the current digital strategies in Scotland and alleviate data poverty by providing free access for people unable to get online at home, delivering substantial social and economic benefits to citizens and communities.”

Pamela Tulloch, chief executive of the Scottish Library and Information Council, added: “This consultation presents a great opportunity for councillors to consider the role public libraries play in supporting a range of policy outcomes which the council hopes to achieve for the local area, including good mental and physical health, well-being, and economic development.

“To thrive, vibrant communities need vibrant libraries. Research shows that a well-run, well-resourced public library service, with current materials, modern surroundings, and trained staff will support local government outcomes.”

She added: “As part of the consultation, SLIC has been in touch with all Dumfries and Galloway councillors to provide insights into the ways they could take forward aspirational plans to have the very best public library service and all the benefits it brings in their local area.”

A spokesman for Dumfries and Galloway Council said: “As with many services, Covid has impacted on how libraries are operated. Dumfries and Galloway has no standalone libraries, they are combined with other services, including registration of births, deaths and marriages and customer services, in one location. Factors can range from previous government guidance that they require to temporarily close (still the case for those public libraries located in schools) to changing customer preferences.

"The council very much recognises the role libraries play across the region and community aspirations as to how these services can be delivered. The current ongoing community engagement is one route being used to gather views and opinions across the region and the council very much appreciates residents taking the time to participate in this. The outcome of this engagement, along with other information, will be used to develop proposals for how this range of services can be delivered in the future.”

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