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'I love my local library and really miss it': the importance of libraries
During the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, Scottish Book Trust set out to discover what impact the lockdown was having on readers in Scotland.
We recruited a panel of people living in Scotland to complete regular surveys about their experiences of reading between March and August 2020. The full report, Reading in Scotland: Reading over lockdown(this will open in a new window) is available to read now.
Throughout the study it was clear that the panel were enthusiastic library users. Before lockdown:
- 75% used their local library to access books, and 94% of those with children used the library to get books for them too
- Almost half browsed the library to find their next read
- 92% reported that they used the public library as a child
We have a fantastic network of public libraries in Scotland and every week we heard from panellists who missed the experience of browsing, getting recommendations from staff and taking part in one of the many events and activities on offer. We received so many lovely stories and insights about the importance of libraries to our panel:
- 'I grew up on a scheme in Falkirk with no books at home. My mum enrolled me in the library as soon as I was eligible. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the old library on Hope Street which enabled me to just browse the shelves for anything that attracted me or had been suggested by excellent teachers at Falkirk High School - to whom I owe an equal debt of gratitude.'
- 'I feel I have read less widely than usual during lockdown. By buying my books rather than borrowing, I have only bought what I knew I would enjoy – that appears to be mostly Irish women writers. Before lockdown, when I borrowed from the library, I was more experimental – I would try a wide variety of authors and genres, and if I didn't enjoy a book I simply returned it.'
- 'The library was one of my essential life services. After lockdown I will be delighted to get back. My local library does some amazing things for new mums, school children on a Friday and older groups.'
While we're not able to visit our libraries in the usual way at the moment, staff have been working hard to make their services as accessible as possible:
- Many libraries buildings are now open, with some operating booking systems to allow you to visit safely. Check your local library service website to find out if your branch is open.
- You can borrow ebooks and audiobooks digitally from most libraries. Although some were hesitant at first, many members of our panel reported trying and enjoying these formats during lockdown. Audiobooks were a particular help to people who were having trouble concentrating.
- Some libraries are also offering activities online. Bookbug sessions, clubs and activities may be going ahead, so check your library website or social media.
Each week our panel shared reading tips for us to pass on to the other panel members. Over the weeks many encouraged each other to give digital borrowing a go:
- 'Listen to books if you struggle to concentrate. I cannot recommend audiobooks enough, or the Library BorrowBox app. It's free to borrow books just like the library, with no subscription and no purchase. Ideal when income is low or non-existent'
- 'Fife library service has a great online selection of reading material, including magazines that I would otherwise not be able to afford. I love that I can dip in and out, it's such a pleasure'
- 'BorrowBox and Amazon Unlimited make recommendations that I take notice of now. In the past I did not really use ebooks. I will probably have a mix of ebooks and paper once lockdown ends'