Ambitious Survey Of Public Librarians Across Scotland Reveals A Vital Service Under Pressure

An ambitious new report by Scottish Book Trust has revealed that one in three librarians in Scotland believe that their whole service is at risk of reduction or loss.


The Survey of Public Librarians, as part of the Value and Impact of Scotland’s Libraries research, published by Scottish Book Trust, Scotland’s national book charity, also revealed a vital service under threat from underinvestment. It reports:


  • 82% of public libraries reported a restriction in their resources and funding
  • One in three public librarians said they had lost librarians and other library staff
  • One in three public librarians reported that their whole service is at risk of reduction or losses.


The report reveals the vital role libraries play in the community as they help to close the poverty-attainment gap. Librarians overwhelmingly agreed that they not only provide free access to all forms of books, but offer a safe, warm and accessible space where those without computers can access digital resources and support, with help from knowledgeable and approachable staff.


While libraries across Scotland are facing ongoing cuts, librarians reported a widespread lack of understanding from their local authorities about the social, long-term impact of their service.

Two thirds of the librarians surveyed reported that their community faces digital poverty, and libraries are bridging the divide. 96% of librarians reported that their library offers access to Wi-Fi, 99% to computers with internet, 71% to ebooks and eReaders and 40% to courses in digital skills. These are lifelines for those with limited resources, including the homeless, the elderly and those who have been released from prison. Librarians also reported that their libraries are a safe space for refugees and asylum seekers, LGBTQ+ people and disabled or neurodiverse people.


As one librarian stated: “We are the first place that people come when they need help, possibly the only place in a landscape of shrinking services. When we are gone then these other agencies will need to foot the time bill and the mental health crisis we are averting.”


This survey of public librarians is part of a wider study of both public and school libraries in Scotland, as conducted by Scottish Book Trust, in partnership with the National Library of Scotland (NLS), the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC), and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS). Preliminary findings from school librarians will be published over the summer, with the final report published later this year.


Marc Lambert, Chief Executive of Scottish Book Trust, said: ‘Libraries are a vital lifeline for communities across Scotland. Not only do they provide free access to books in a warm and safe environment, but, as this wide-ranging report reveals, they are also a levelling up factory that sends people in a positive direction.
‘There is no other public space where people can access information, combat digital poverty, learn new skills, socialise with others, express themselves creatively, and seek to self-improve, entirely for free. It’s incredibly concerning that these important institutions are endangered.’


Scottish Book Trust is also conducting a survey of public library users, which will be open for responses until the end of June 2024. The impact of Scotland’s libraries – Scottish Book Trust