LIBRARIES across Scotland should accessible via one national card, an expert group has recommended.

The National Strategy for Public Libraries in Scotland Strategic Group, set up to come up with proposals to shape the future of libraries in Scotland, has also suggested all libraries need to have free wi-fi as well as a greater role in the community.

The group want to see a switch from local library cards defined by council area borders, and the development of digital libraries' on the internet that are available 24-hours a day.

Other proposals include a greater focus on partnerships with agencies such as the jobcentre, and the creation of co-working spaces in libraries for small businesses.

Libraries should also work with Scottish publishers to provide eBooks to help promote a "strong, fair and inclusive national identity".

Martyn Evans, chief executive of the charity Carnegie UK, who chaired the strategy group, said: "Public libraries are the most popular civic resource that local government offers.

"The 21st century public library has to position itself in a world where immense amounts of knowledge, information and culture can be accessed almost simultaneously, 24 hours a day, through smartphones, tablets and computers.

"The future success of public libraries in Scotland will depend on how well they respond to the changing needs of communities and an evolving digital world.

"The strategy provides the measures and steps public library services need to take to achieve this and create an efficient, effective and people-centred public library service."

Research for the group's report was carried out with focus groups from Glasgow, Dundee, Duns, Bathgate, Elgin, Greenock, Dingwall and Edinburgh, while a questionnaire was distributed to library staff and the public.

The group was also given a number of presentations on topics ranging from the how libraries are run in Nordic countries to e-reading and publishing, and visited libraries in Edinburgh, Glasgow, the Highlands, Perth and Kinross, Dundee, the Western Isles, and Dumfries and Galloway.

The aim is to provide a roadmap that will allow Scotland's 600 libraries, which are used by 61 per cent of the public, to flourish.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop said: "This first national strategy for Scotland's public libraries builds on the hard work we know takes place in libraries across the country.

"The strategy offers guidance and direction to fully unlock the power of libraries. The libraries of today are very different to libraries of the past, they have adapted to suit the people and communities they serve.

"Today's strategy is an important milestone in developing a bright modern future for libraries and I look forward to seeing this work progress."

Councillor Harry McGuigan, Cosla spokesman for Community Wellbeing added: "The strategy heralds an opportunity to take libraries into the 21st century. It's essential we have libraries that are vibrant and relevant to the needs of our communities.

"Libraries are evolving into community hubs which support not only reading, literacy and learning, but digital inclusion, economic and social wellbeing, culture and advance creativity.

"However, to realise the expectations and aspirations set out in the strategy, local government will need sufficient funding."

The group was asked to come up with the plan by the Scottish Library and Information Council and local authority chiefs.