OVER £20 million has been invested by local authorities in public libraries in the last 18 months, new figures show.

The Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) said the investment showed the strong commitment of councils to public library services.

Earlier this month, figures showed a dramatic increase in the number of libraries being shut - with 45 closed in the past two years alone.

However, the latest figures show council investment has led to the building or refurbishment of 14 libraries since March last year.

Additional funding has also been provided to modernise library services with the introduction of free public wifi, 3D printing resources and a film education programme.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, welcomed the investment - announced in Libraries Week.

She said: “This week celebrates the vital role of our libraries in Scotland and the fantastic service provided by staff and volunteers.

“I welcome this year’s focus on wellbeing, which fits in well with the Scottish Government’s commitment to promoting social wellbeing and tackling social isolation and inequality through increased access to library services.

“Since 2014, we have invested more than £5 million to help re-invigorate the role of public libraries, providing funds to support local and national activity.

“I encourage local communities throughout Scotland to continue to use and benefit from the wide range of services that our local libraries provide.”

Pamela Tulloch, chief executive of SLIC, said a national libraries strategy had provided a framework for the “transformation” of services in the 21st century.

She said: “In some areas, this has led to some venue closures to make way for a more relevant and flexible model of delivery.

“However, local government has continued to invest in the estate, demonstrated by the significant capital spend.

“Public libraries have faced a challenging time in recent years amidst public spending cuts.

“However, they have shown tremendous resilience and are adapting services to meet the needs of modern users.”

The latest figures show there is still a strong commitment to public libraries from the public with premise and virtual visits increasing from 39.8m to over 43m since 2010.

Earlier this month, there was concern that the service was under threat with figures showing 45 libraries have been closed in the past two years.

Figures form SLIC showed said 30 libraries closed last year, up from 15 the previous year.

Closures have remained in single figures for most of the previous decade.

There are fears libraries are seen as a “soft touch” for councils looking to make cuts in a climate of falling budgets.

The former Scots-based Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson hit out at the scale of the closures, saying libraries served a vital role as community centres.

A spokesman for the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland said: “We recognise that recent years have seen huge local authority budgetary cuts.

“The fact the number of people using libraries has increased in the same period highlights their popularity, the changing ways people access services and the vital contribution they make to community cohesion, social and economic wellbeing, digital skills, literacy and more.

“We urge local authorities to think very carefully and consult residents fully before closing any libraries.”