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Why public libraries are essential

As well as offering support, community and vital services to people around Scotland, libraries and their fantastic staff are crucial to the impact of Scottish Book Trust's programmes.

Last updated: 28 February 2024

Old library with statues and shelves of books

We love libraries!

Libraries are the beating heart of communities in Scotland. They’re a free-to-access space where thousands of books, events, services and ways of accessing support are at your fingertips – even from home, as most libraries now also provide eBooks and audiobooks.

Scottish Book Trust programmes come to life when they are delivered by enthusiastic, skilled people across Scotland and many of those people work in libraries! Read on to find out about just some of the ways that Scottish Book Trust team has the privilege of supporting public libraries across Scotland. 

Vital for families and young children

Our first audience is libraries. It’s not just that we can’t run Bookbug without libraries, it’s that we can’t make the difference we want to make for children and families without them.

- Helena Barrett-Duncan, Early Years Community Engagement Manager at Scottish Book Trust

Did you know that nearly 15,000 free Bookbug sessions took place in libraries between April 2022 and March 2023? These were attended by almost 170,000 children.

Libraries and librarians support their communities through Bookbug by: 

The annual Bookbug Hero Award honours Early Years professionals who make a real difference in the lives of young children and families, helping them to advocate for the value of their work.

Find out more about how libraries and librarians use Bookbug to support their communities by reading some of the words by previous winners – such as Ian Keane (Clackmannanshire, 2022) – and watching films about their work.

Vital for authors

Libraries support authors to write 

Authors and illustrators are at the heart of everything we do at Scottish Book Trust. Libraries and librarians support authors in too many ways to count! Libraries host writing groups in their spaces and promote opportunities for writers to share their work.

Did you know that when you borrow an author’s books from your local public library in the UK, the author receives a small payment? This is called Public Lending Right (PLR)(this link will open in a new window) and directly supports authors to be paid for their work. You can support your favourite author by requesting their books from your library service – and you can help other readers to discover them, too. 

Libraries host author events

It is one of our greatest joys as a team to see authors meeting their readers and readers meeting their favourite authors! Libraries across Scotland make this happen in many ways, including through two of our flagship programmes. 

Live Literature

Live Literature has connected authors and communities in Scotland for 50 years. Watch our film to hear Viv French, Harry Josephine Giles and Nadine Aisha Jassat speak about the impact of author events on them as authors. 

Live Literature helps organisations meet the cost of hosting an author event, by ensuring authors are paid a fair fee for their work and reimbursed for their expenses. 

Book Week Scotland

The Book Week Scotland programme would not exist without libraries and librarians. Many events are programmed and run by librarians.

- Gordon Connelly, Reading Communities Co-ordinator, Scottish Book Trust

Libraries support communities across Scotland to celebrate Book Week Scotland every year. Many of them do this by holding author events, hosting an incredible 84% of Book Week Scotland events in 2022, reaching an estimated 20,000 people. Libraries also give out tens of thousands of copies of Scotland’s Stories every year.

Vital for people living with dementia and those who care for them

The key barrier to doing this work is reaching individual people who are caring for people living with dementia. We learned in East Lothian that the programme thrives if libraries are involved. The programme relies on relationships and trust. Caring for people living with dementia often involves vulnerability, grieving, sharing difficult stories and financial difficulty. Libraries introduce us to people who already trust that library; this is work we can't do without them.

- Keira O’Sullivan, Reading is Caring Co-ordinator, Scottish Book Trust

Libraries support those in their community living with dementia and their carers through reminiscence work, support accessing other public services, and help direct people to pieces of reading they can share together. 

If you, or someone you know, would benefit from Reading is Caring, keep an eye out for hourly library sessions in 2024. Reading is Caring is currently operating in the following local authorities: Edinburgh, Lothians, Borders and Fife.

What can you do?

Feeling inspired? Here are a few ways you can learn more, get involved with libraries in your area and help us make an impact.