If you haven’t been to your local library lately, you’d be forgiven for missing out on the Quiet Revolution unfolding off the shelves. Libraries have been busy, turning into bustling hives of activity, online access, dating, reading, creativity, and conversation (and yes, the eerie quiet space for book lovers too).
This is why we are so grateful to Scotland on Sunday for its campaign, highlighting the new world of libraries and why everyone, everywhere, should be able to benefit from a local and modern library service.
Support our libraries: Scotland on Sunday campaign launched
Scotland has always been a powerhouse when it comes to public libraries. When the world’s first Carnegie Library was opened in Dunfermline in 1883, only 23% of the British population had access to a library. By 1915, thanks to Carnegie’s (and her mother’s) belief that every community should have a ‘university around the corner’ at its heart, that number had risen to over 60% – an unprecedented investment in literacy and apprenticeship of workers.
Fast forward 100 years, and some recent research from the Carnegie UK Trust shows that Scots are more likely to use their local library than anywhere else in the UK. A whopping 77% of the Scottish electorate in 2019 cited libraries as ‘very important to my community’.
A child born in Scotland today will grow up in a world so radically different from the one we grew up in that we can hardly imagine. They will live their lives in the glare of an always-on mobile screen, always connected and busy researching data on how they spend their lives online.
Future generations will have to be careful with information – where they get it, how they use it, how to decide whether it’s true or not. Fake news and misinformation aren’t just headlines – it’s a battle for our children’s right to grow up in a world that sees them as more than a wallet and a vote.
This is where libraries come in. Libraries have never been all about books – books have always been a means to an end. The goal is to help people become literate, self-reliant free thinkers, able to empathize with those around them and make informed choices in their daily lives.
This is what really matters to librarians – that everyone, everywhere, be empowered to challenge and learn, apply their own critical judgment and use what you know to go out, find a job, start a business. business, make a difference and realize your potential.
And that is why this campaign is really important, because if we are to build a better future for Scotland and for future generations, if we are to give every child the best start in life, we have to start building more libraries.
Nick Poole is Managing Director of CILIP, the British Library Association.