LIBRARIES are essential to Scottish communities but services need to adapt if they are to survive, according to a new report.

Research from the Carnegie UK Trust has revealed more than three-quarters of Scots believe libraries are either very important or essential to their community.

However, the trust's paper, A New Chapter – Public Library Services in the 21st Century, argues libraries cannot "stand still in a changing world".

The report states the country's public library service is at a crossroads and must "pioneer new ways of providing services" in order to survive.

Crime writer Ian Rankin also backed the calls, saying it was crucial that Scottish libraries move forward.

The Rebus author said: "Technology and changes in the way we live are impacting hugely on what communities want and need from libraries.

"It's crucial the services they provide adapt and evolve so they remain as treasured in the future as they are now, providing a free yet invaluable service that underpins education, creativity and lifelong learning.

"It's heartening to see this work by the trust give us a sound starting point for a critically-important debate about the role of libraries."

The survey, the first of its kind into public attitudes towards libraries, revealed 61% of those questioned had used a library at least once in the last year – a higher figure than any other part of the UK. More than half of those who had used their library in the last year had used it at least once a month.

Martyn Evans, chief executive of the Carnegie UK Trust, said, "It's clear that people in Scotland still love their libraries. But library services need to develop innovative ways of attracting visitors and providing a new range of relevant services, along with a re-think about how the buildings are used as community hubs.

"Libraries need to be able to demonstrate the impact they have on a wide range of social indicators such as health and wellbeing, employment, and digital inclusion."

Across Scotland, libraries have more than one million regular users, who borrow books, audio books, CDs and DVDs.

Last year, Nine Dragons by American author Michael Connelly was the most borrowed book in libraries in Scotland, according to data released by Public Lending Right.

The statistics also revealed Scottish readers would rather pick up a good crime thriller than enjoy a literary romantic interlude.

The top 10 of most-borrowed titles also included US writer James Patterson's book Private, Rosamund Lupton's thriller Sister, and bestseller The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, by Stieg Larsson.

Scottish libraries are also developing new ways of providing services, including internet access, youth groups, and mother and baby classes.

The trust argues that public library services and library buildings must be viewed separately.

Despite investment in library buildings in the past, it believes services must develop and respond to the needs of communities in the present day.

Annie Mauger, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, said: "As public library services face a series of challenges and opportunities, a fresh vision for public libraries in the 21st century is urgently needed.

"We welcome the contribution the Carnegie UK Trust can make to developing this vision as well as promoting forward thinking, and supporting creative and innovative practice in public library services."