Public library services will celebrate Scotland’s Mobile Libraries Day today to promote the valuable role mobile library services play in local communities.

SLIC launched the national day last year to ensure mobile library services continue to be a valued part of public library provision across the country. Despite ongoing Covid-related restrictions, services across Scotland will celebrate the day.

In a year that has been unlike any other, services from Orkney to the Borders have quickly adapted to ensure that mobile libraries have been able to venture out into communities in a Covid secure way.

With the temporary closure of Scotland’s public library buildings, the Scottish Borders’ online and mobile library service known as Connect & Collect has provided a vital lifeline for many to continue to connect with others while also providing a much needed leisure activity, with many turning to books to escape the long locked-down days. When static libraries in the Scottish Borders closed due to Covid-19 earlier this year, the team at Live Borders were quick to come up with an innovative solution to continue to provide avid readers throughout the region with reading materials through its ‘Connect & Collect’ programme.

Instead of attending libraries in person, library users across the region are able to reserve books online or via telephone and arrange to collect them from the mobile stops at specific times, or from established pick up points on a wider choice of days. Returned books are then quarantined for the recommended 72 hours before going back out into circulation.

A Valued Service

Live Borders Mobile Library Van in actionPaul Brough, library services manager at Live Borders, commented: “We knew when the static libraries began to close that this would be a huge loss for many members of the local community. Due to our rural setting our mobile library was already a popular service so we quickly came up with a programme to help extend its offering to those who would usually visit libraries in person. As soon as we launched the Connect & Collect programme, we saw a gratifying spike in book requests and these have continued throughout the course of the pandemic. We receive around 500 calls a week for the service.

“We’ve been told by some of our users that the service has been a real lifeline for them over the last few months. Naturally, many of our older users are still cautious about being out and about in public so even this weekly interaction with the service has been a real boost for them and has helped stave off their social isolation. The Connect & Collect library service has proven to be extremely valuable this year and I’d like to thank all the staff and volunteers who have helped keep the service going throughout this challenging time.”

Even before the pandemic, research commissioned by SLIC found that mobile library services are greatly valued by users and were described as a “lifeline”.  Our Libraries on the Move report found that 98% of mobile library users rate the service as very or extremely valuable.  Users valued the personal service from staff and the resources available.  Older people described the service as beneficial to overcoming feelings of loneliness and isolation, and families praised the service for helping with literacy, reading for pleasure and doing things as a family.

There are 49 mobile libraries in Scotland, operated by 22 library services, including Orkney, the Western Isles, Highlands and Islands, Edinburgh and Scottish Borders.  Combined, the 49 mobiles operate across a network of 3,000 stops, serving almost 37,000 active mobile library users.

A Day of Celebration

Customers pick books at the Live Borders Mobile LibrarySLIC Chief Executive Pamela Tulloch said: “After launching Mobile Libraries Day for the first time last year to help highlight the vital role the services play in contributing to achieving local and national priorities, no one could have predicted how 2020 was going to unfold.

“Our aim with the national day is to showcase the service to the public, decision makers and policy makers and help show how it makes a meaningful contribution to achieving local and national priorities around learning and attainment, health and wellbeing and cultural and leisure experiences.

“This year, more than ever, the value of the service has shone through as library teams throughout Scotland have quickly pivoted and adapted the mobile library service to the new normal. Feedback from users has been truly gratifying, with some praising the service for helping them tackle lockdown loneliness, giving them something to look forward to each week.

“While we may not have been able to host physical events to celebrate Mobile Libraries Day this year, it’s been great to see services get involved via social media to celebrate the wonderful and plentiful benefits mobile libraries can bring, during a time when we need them most.”