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Bright future for Scotland's libraries

New digital services such as e-books, IT classes and gaming are contributing to a rise in attendance at Scotland’s libraries, according to library leaders. 

Statistics in the Scottish Household Survey show the percentage of adults in Scotland visiting libraries – including online – increased in 2011 compared to the previous 12 months. Libraries were also the most frequently attended type of cultural venue, with six in ten attendees visiting once a month or more.

The Scottish Household Survey also found that reading for pleasure continues to be the most popular cultural activity in Scotland, attracting 63 per cent of the adult population in 2011.

It comes as the Scottish Library and Information Council publishes new reports about the quality of local library services, demonstrating the success of £500,000 annual Scottish Government investment in libraries across Scotland for initiatives to help people get online, learn to use digital reference services, support reading promotions and community history projects.

Fiona McLeod MSP, Chair of the Scottish Library and Information Council said: ”Libraries are changing the way they way they offer services to the public. Reading remains an important part of how we serve communities and that is has expanded into e-books for pleasure and reference. Free access to the internet in our libraries since 2003 has meant that for many their library is the place to get on line and access learning. Rising visitor numbers show how the public value the service and space provided.”

Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Dundee, East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, Fife, Highland, Inverclyde, Midlothian, Moray, Perth and Kinross, Shetland, South Lanarkshire, Stirling and West Dunbartonshire were evaluated for the latest round of reports, with six of the regions – Aberdeenshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Midlothian, Moray, South Lanarkshire and Stirling - receiving an excellent rating for at least one area of the assessment. Moray Libraries achieved an outstanding 11 ratings as ‘excellent’ from their peer assessors in a two year period.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “With four out of five adults using libraries in Scotland, they are an important part of our culture and education system.  I am very encouraged by this rise in library attendance, which comes as libraries expand the range of services being offered to communities to include more digital and learning provision.

“The Scottish Government’s Public Library Improvement Fund is designed to help local libraries to evaluate and improve the services they provide, and these reports show such a range of good practice which can be shared across Scotland.

“I am also extremely pleased that the percentage of adults reading for pleasure has increased in 2011 from the previous year and I am looking forward to Book Week Scotland, our first ever national week-long celebration of reading, later this year.”

The sixteen services evaluated receive good, very good or excellent ratings for service provision. PLQIM is a peer-reviewed self-evaluation tool and was developed by the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) to provide a benchmark for quality service provision and looks at seven areas: information, community engagement, reading, learning, ethos, resources and leadership.

Ms McLeod added: “The provision of quality library services is crucial to ensure that people have the support they need to develop their skills, realise their aspirations and contribute to the economic growth and wellbeing of the country.

“The PLQIM tool provides a benchmark for quality and we are delighted with the results of the latest round of reports and welcome the Scottish Government’s continued support which is helping to provide communities with access to the services, information and advice that they need.

“Libraries are at the forefront of combating the digital divide and have a crucial role to play in ensuring that no one in our society gets left behind by new technologies. The latest round of PLQIF funding includes library learning initiatives designed to keep users up to date with mobile technologies, smartphones, tablets and e-books.”

Libraries remain one of the free universal services for communities where the population can visit as individuals or groups to pursue reading for pleasure, learning or hobbies. They also support the business community, individual and community information needs and are inclusive of all age and social groups, nationalities, genders and religious beliefs.

In addition to the visitors who use general library services, SLIC figures show libraries also have over 300,000 registered learners following formal courses and more than 500,000 people – equating to 10 per cent of Scotland’s population - using learning centres in libraries.

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