Forward: Scotland's Public Library Strategy 2021-2025 has been launched - promising a more efficient, sustainable and informed library service to support Scotland’s communities. 

The five year strategy focuses on social isolation, providing free and accessible information, promoting health and wellbeing and closing the digital divide.

Led by SLIC and delivered by public library services, the strategy will contribute to nine out of 17 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all by 2030. It will also build on the success of the 2015 strategy, “Ambition and Opportunity”, which supported the introduction of a range of creative and innovative projects to expand the library offer, from Code Clubs and free WiFi to film education and coworking spaces for entrepreneurs.

The new strategy focuses on further integration and provision of digital services, the need for which was accelerated by the pandemic. Throughout 2020, public libraries quickly pivoted more services online and enhanced their digital offer, introducing “click and collect”, digital support, and virtual programmes to address social isolation.

People, Place & Partnership

Pamela Tulloch CEO SLICThere is a focus on building seamless customer journeys and service consistency across the library network, as well as digital literacy training and access to equipment to help close the nation’s digital divide.

While increased digital services will make public libraries more accessible to many, the strategy also places people, place and partnership at the centre of its plans. Libraries have long been considered cornerstones of communities, and the new strategy commits to building on the quality and diversity of in-person services to ensure they continue to be welcoming, trusted and supportive places for everyone at the heart of communities.

It will also deliver on local and national priorities through partners such as the NHS; the existing health and wellbeing offer from libraries is estimated to bring a cost saving to NHS Scotland of £3.2 million each year.

Pamela Tulloch, chief executive at SLIC said: “Libraries are an essential part of Scotland's social fabric, supporting and inspiring people to fulfil their potential for over 150 years. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, this strategy reflects a collective desire to do things differently, more efficiently, and more sustainably.

“Communities have expressed a huge desire for library services post-pandemic, demonstrating the essential nature of what libraries do and proving there is a much deeper connection with libraries that goes far beyond book borrowing and reading.

“Libraries are crucial to Scotland’s Covid-19 recovery. They are uniquely placed and capable of promoting meaningful change in communities across the country.  They already play a huge part in helping local and central government to meet health, social, education and economic priorities, making a compelling case for increased investment in libraries. They have demonstrated tremendous resilience and adaptability to meet changing needs. 

“Now, this strategy provides a blueprint for how services will continue to listen, to grow and to move forward with intent.”

Culture Minister Jenny Gilruth said: “Throughout these challenging times, public libraries in Scotland have demonstrated tremendous strength and resilience, and the Public Library Strategy 2021 – 2025, Forward, comes at a critical stage as we work together towards the country’s recovery.

“It is encouraging to see that the strategy articulates a national vision for libraries, exploring their multifaceted role in ensuring a stronger post-pandemic future, while placing communities at the centre of its focus.”