Written by Gillian Daly, Scottish Library and Information Council
Scotland’s public library network of over 500 branches spans the length and breadth of the country, offering opportunities for all in the heart of our communities. Far from the dusty perception of libraries that still lingers in the popular imagination, today’s libraries are vibrant community hubs which have evolved in response to changing user needs.
Although book lending is still a huge part of what we do, libraries offer an exciting range of activities and programmes to support learning, digital inclusion, social and economic wellbeing, and culture and creativity.
In 2015, Scotland’s first national strategy for public libraries was developed through partnership with the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC), the Scottish Government, COSLA and the Carnegie UK Trust. Ambition and Opportunity: A Strategy for Public Libraries in Scotland 2015-2020 sets out a clear roadmap for the nation’s libraries, which runs on a parallel track with the Scottish Government’s vision for our town centres, and the work of Scotland’s Towns Partnership.
Libraries are already a vitally important part of our civic landscape –they are one of very few public indoor spaces that are open to all and free of charge.
Many libraries occupy prime positions on our high streets and may also be co-located with other council or social/health care services, widening opportunities for access.
By 2020, the end point for delivery of Ambition and Opportunity, national examples of good practice will have become local service standards, positioning libraries as hubs for information, inspiration and innovation in our towns and communities.
A key feature of this will be the introduction of maker spaces across Scotland, offering access to bleeding-edge technologies, harnessing the creativity of local people and opening up opportunities for local businesses.
Dundee Libraries were the first service in the UK to introduce 3D printers as long ago as May 2014 and have continued to lead the way with the exciting development of a fully functioning maker space in the Central Library, which is located in the Wellgate Centre in the heart of the city. In the near future this will have grown to offer electronic milling and knitting machines, as well as a laser cutting machine and a suite of 3D printers.
As part of the national Strategy implementation, SLIC is currently leading on a Scottish Government-funded initiative which will see 3D printers introduced in all library services, enabling the spread of such maker spaces across the country.
We will also be working to introduce greater support for entrepreneurs and small businesses by creating flexible workspaces in libraries, offering access to office technologies and opportunities for skills development.
There are already examples of excellent practice in this area in spaces such as the Mitchell Library in Glasgow and the Foundry in Barrhead, East Renfrewshire.
This level of innovation will ensure that libraries remain at the heart of Scottish civic life for generations to come, gathering communities together to enjoy the local area and make a significant contribution to the vitality of Scotland’s public realm.
Scottish Library and Information Council