The First Minister
The Scottish Government
St Andrew’s House
Dear First Minister,
We all understand that cuts are coming to public services and how difficult it is to ‘balance the books’ and to prioritise services. However, we, as the Society of Authors in Scotland, feel compelled to voice our support for our libraries and register our dismay at the threat of cuts to this valuable resource for Scotland’s people.
Cuts to education, wages, heating and health are all emotive subjects. Books and libraries in these circumstances may be seen as luxuries, as is almost anything creative at times like these.
Libraries feed the soul. Free access to literature can help people cope and survive horrific situations. Even now in the poorest places, in war-torn countries, in unbelievable hardship and amidst suppression, people write, people create and people seek out the creativity of others to survive oppression and persecution.
Libraries open minds. Writers give a human voice to past events that helps us to see through different eyes. Our understanding of the horrors of war would be so much less without, Anne Frank’s Diary, or the Gaelic bard from the First World War, Dòmhnall Ruadh Chòrùna or indeed Scots poet Mary Symon.
Libraries educate. Andrew Carnegie recognised that to lift people out of poverty they needed to be educated. He understood that the poor who couldn’t afford to put a meal on the table or coal on their fire need access to free books to educate themselves so that they could to see the world beyond their own lives. Extremes of poverty are with us again today. What would Andrew Carnegie say to hear of the closing of the libraries he founded being closed down and of librarians losing jobs? What would he say to his investment in people being stripped away leaving them with no access to free books and expert advice?
Libraries provide community hubs. I see families coming into libraries, looking at books, reading, taking out food and flasks and staying there for the day. I’ve seen the elderly meeting there where once they would have gone to each other houses or cafes. Present circumstances do not allow these groups to spend those few pounds on a hot drink or heating their homes. Many libraries have schemes for the elderly to socialise, an essential lifeline that helps maintain their cognitive abilities and functions as a welfare check for people who may live alone or rarely leave the house.
Libraries help the government and councils meet their targets in so many ways. They are free at point of access. They help educate, they are good for the environment as books are lent out repeatedly. They can keep our people warm and safe when they can’t afford to heat their own homes. They can provide sources of information, and internet access for those who can’t afford computers. They provide community hubs where people can gather free of charge. They are a positive source of wellbeing and so lessen the burden on the NHS.
In times like these libraries are not a luxury but are a necessity. They are a safe house, a meeting place, a place where imagination can be encouraged, where learning takes place, a green place, a shared place, a wealth of riches free to all. They are, in short, a place that needs protection for this generation and for generations to come.
To quote writer and broadcaster Damian Barr:
When we close libraries we shut doors to the future. We are saying to children: “Stay where you are, no further.” … Everyone deserves the chance – to connect with their community, to enjoy the worlds within books, to tell and, if they want, change their own story. Every library – and every librarian – is essential.
We call on the Scottish Government and Scottish Regional Councils:
– to increase and ring-fence funding for library services.
– to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service which allows free access to physical books in a safe, comfortable, convenient and accessible space which is open to library users regularly, including weekends and evenings.
– to ensure such a library service should be managed and curated by professionally trained staff.
We would like to see a commitment from the Scottish Government and Councils to provide funding and a robust strategy to meet these aims.
The Committee of The Society of Authors in Scotland
John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister
Scottish Book Trust
Totally agree its time this government focussed on what matter to people like schools, nhs, libraries, helping those in need etc etc I could go on. They should forget about spending money on wanting to become independent. Now is the time for the uk to pull together.
Miss out the word ‘Regional’ in the last two paragraphs. It is outdated.
Many thanks for spotting, Eric – we’ve updated that.