Campaign highlights ‘crucial role’ of libraries under threat in Scotland

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A NATIONAL campaign to champion Scotland’s library services in the face of cuts is launching today with the help of 2016 Man Booker Prize shortlisted author, Graeme Macrae Burnet.

The Scot who used his local library to write and research his lauded second book, His Bloody Project, is backing the ‘Libraries Matter’ campaign from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS), which runs in the lead-up to the local government elections on 4th May 2017.

The nationwide campaign responds to the threat of closure and reduction in public and school library services by championing libraries as the driving forces in our communities, delivering more than just access to books.

Said Graeme Macrae Burnet: “As a regular user of libraries, I know what a fantastic range of services they provide to people of all ages and backgrounds.

“At a time when we are concerned about literacy, education and inclusiveness, we should be championing the crucial role libraries play in our communities.”

Adds a spokesperson: “Public libraries welcome 28 million visits a year, making them more popular than Scotland’s professional football matches, with 20 million books borrowed each year. They are also excellent value, delivering up to £8 return for every £1 invested. Libraries are essential, providing digital skills and access, vital for the 20 per cent of Scots without access to the internet.

“Meanwhile, school libraries, which have already seen a number of Scotland-wide cutbacks, make a vital contribution to supporting literacy and raising attainment. Indeed, research shows that professionally-staffed librarians help pupils achieve higher exam scores.”

The Libraries Matter campaign – which has already gained support from Transporting author, Irvine Welsh – will target candidates standing in the approaching local elections.

It will ask that, if elected, they support public libraries and the vital contribution they make to community cohesion, social and economic wellbeing, digital skills and literacy as well as supporting professionally-staffed school libraries and recognising their value to education and raising the attainment agenda.

Said John Downie, director of Public Affairs at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations: “While many people are increasingly accessing information digitally, many others are left behind.

“Libraries are not just about books but also provide an essential community resource for people to get free advice, information and awareness of what’s available in their communities in a safe and friendly atmosphere.”

An open letter from CILIPS has been sent to all elected members in Scotland and the professional body will be writing again to those candidates standing for election to set out just why Libraries Matter so much.

Said Larry Flanagan, General Secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland: “Scottish education is focused on closing the attainment gap and raising standards.

“School libraries are a key element in delivering these ambitions.

“Many children don’t have ready access to books at home, for example, or indeed the wider resources, which school libraries provide such as computers and even just a space to study.

“And over and above the resources, school librarians are highly-skilled professionals who know how to assist and support students. If we are serious about our ambitions for Scottish education, school libraries deserve our support.”

Library supporters are also being encouraged to get involved on Twitter and Instagram by sharing why libraries matter to them, along with a photograph holding a sign of the campaign’s hashtag, #LibrariesMatter.

Sample signs can be downloaded from the CILIPS’ website.

Said Catherine Kearney, director of CILIP in Scotland: “​Today, we are launching the Libraries Matter campaign and encouraging library supporters Scotland-wide to join in by sharing online and with your elected officials why Libraries Matter so much to you – and to our nation.

“People may be surprised what’s on offer at the library, with services addressing Scotland’s key outcomes and their value reaching beyond access to books to digital inclusion, community cohesion, health and wellbeing and more.”

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