Libraries Matter to Scotland’s Digital Future

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Category: Reading
Tagged: reading, Libraries

Over the past few months CILIP in Scotland has been campaigning to show the many ways that libraries matter. The campaign was aimed at candidates standing in local government elections on May 4 and we wanted to celebrate all the wonderful things libraries do whilst highlighting why they matter so much to individuals, communities and the nation. We wanted to show politicians the many ways in which both public and school libraries support national and local priorities.

We wanted to celebrate the wonderful things libraries do whilst highlighting why they matter so much.

We were delighted to receive backing from a wide range of people and organisations for the campaign and it was incredible to hear of so much of the diverse work that goes on across Scotland’s libraries and the impact it is having.

Access to digital opportunities and services

In this blog I would like to focus particularly on the essential digital offer in Scotland’s libraries. Some say that because of the internet and smartphones, libraries and librarians are no longer needed. This could not be further from the truth. With 20% of households in Scotland not having access to the internet and 30% of the population not having essential digital skills, people need both digital and information literacy skills. Knowing how to use a computer is not enough, people need to be able to understand the information they find online, evaluate it and use it effectively.

Throughout Scotland, librarians are providing access and enabling citizens to do the learning that will allow them to become active in the digital world.

20% of households in Scotland do not have access to the internet and 30% of the population do not have essential digital skills

Take DigiDabble in North Ayrshire for example. This project engages whole families and communities with a box of digital software and hardware. Libraries across Scotland also offer courses on basic digital skills. Another example is Inverclyde Libraries, who provide a range of courses that take people from basic skills up to more advanced qualifications. These are just two examples but there are many more across Scotland.

Libraries also provide digital access and support for people looking for work or to carry out vital tasks such as claiming universal credit. There is no other place in the community that offers this level of free, safe and secure access to do this. Dundee Libraries do just that with their Opportunities Room with over 6,500 digital sessions in the past year alone.

Code Club

Our colleagues at the Scottish Library and Information Council have used funding from the Scottish Government to provide 3D printing facilities and staff training to every local authority and further funding has also been used to extend WiFi coverage further across libraries in Scotland. These services open doors for people to engage with services in new ways and support the aims of Ambition and Opportunity, the National Strategy for Public Libraries.

Improving employability through digital skills

There is also a growing number of Code Clubs with over 450 librarians recently being trained in this area. Glasgow Life recently employed a coder in residence and others provide courses and support to help create coders of the future.

Scotland’s network of over 500 public libraries reaches far and wide and school libraries are also playing their part in supporting the digital agenda. Elgin Academy’s recent Nibbles and Bytes event supported pupils with Minecraft in a fun and supportive way and there are countless other examples of school librarians across the country carrying out essential digital projects like this that support the curriculum and help raise attainment.  

Developing digital skills increases employability, improves access, builds social contacts and enables people to find essential information.

Libraries services cut across Scotland’s key outcomes and Scotland’s librarians have the professional knowledge and skills to support national digital agendas. Developing digital skills increases employability, improves access, builds social contacts and enables people to find essential information in areas such as health.

It is for these reasons - as well as many more - that libraries and librarians matter now more than ever.

Sean McNamara

Sean McNamara is the Policy and Digital officer for the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland. Sean previously worked in public libraries for 5 years as a People’s Network and Learning Services Librarian.

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