Promising every child a library card from birth will be pointless if there are no libraries left or they are hardly open, according to public sector union Unison.

Developing auto-enrolment for every child in Scotland was among the pledges made by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last month to help improve levels of literacy.

But a new report from Unison reveals high levels of frustration and pessimism among staff in services around the country beset by cutbacks. The report, Read It and Weep, is based on a survey of its members working in Scotland's libraries and says they are being expected to expand services, while being in the front line of cuts.

Among the challenges they say they face are cuts in staffing which lead to shorter hours, 'single-manning' of libraries, and use of volunteers to replace paid staff. A wider range of activities has not been accompanied by sufficient training, many workers told the union, leading to frustration and anger from members of the public, although one worker did say the job had become 'more interesting'.

However around 40% of staff said their employers had no vision for the future. The report adds "This doesn't include those - and there were a disconcerting number - who suggested that their employers' vision for libraries was 'closure'."

The report says staff frustration is clear with most are aware that the services they provide are not as good as they could be and they highlight the impacts that cuts are making. While libraries perform an increasing range of roles, including in some cases taking council payments, assisting with bus pass applications and benefit claims, helping job seekers carry out online job searches, the report says, they have been seen as an easy target for cuts. As a result staff numbers have been going down, buildings are closing and opening hours reduced.

When services are poor, the public have become more aggressive, the report suggests, particularly those sent by job centres who sometimes take their frustration out on staff. Many councils have moved the running of libraries to culture and leisure trusts, where they can seem like the poor relation, the report says.

One library employee said their council was set on cutting libraries and opening times to save money. "They think that everyone can buy books and that everyone has a computer and broadband at home. We offer so much more than that and for those who cannot afford to buy books and cannot afford a landline, braodband and a computer, the library is essential, particularly for the unemployed and those on benefits, who must now access the services they require on-line."

Gray Allan, UNISON Falkirk council branch spokesperson (Librarian), said “There are no shortage of people willing to say libraries are a good thing. But what our libraries need isn’t just fine words and ideals but proper financing and investment .

"The Scottish Government have endorsed a national strategy for public libraries that talks of libraries being part of a shared civic ambition. There isn’t much point in giving every child in Scotland a library card if their local library is being closed or its hours have reduced so much it isn’t accessible.”

A COSLA Spokesman said: "Local government is committed to maintaining the high levels of provision which include over 520 fixed libraries in Scotland.

"This degree of provision is unparalleled in other parts of Britain. This is not a cup half empty scenario, indeed in truth we should be celebrating the maintenance of local provision in times of extremely challenging funding."