First there are barely perceptible cracks in the mortar. Then bricks are removed one by one. Individually, it seems acceptable, practical even, but collectively this slow dismantling makes the building shake.

It’s clear that eventually it will collapse and so it’s condemned. This is what is happening to our libraries.

I wish I could say this was a new story but I’ve been writing about the vital importance of public libraries, particularly for those from lower socio-economic backgrounds like myself, for almost a decade and in that time I have watched the foundations of this service attacked, one seemingly expendable brick at a time.

Read more: The Herald's new columnist Kerry Hudson on Glasgow community

Libraries were a lifesaver for me. I don't mean, ‘lifesaver’ as in, ‘Thank goodness I can order that new crime novel or use the wifi or shelter from the rain’. I mean without them I wouldn’t be writing in these pages. I wouldn’t be alive at all.

HeraldScotland: Library services are at riskLibrary services are at risk (Image: Newsquest)

During a traumatic childhood and the almost inevitable chaotic young adulthood that followed, libraries anchored me. I was welcome in that space and no matter what state I found myself in. Indeed, especially if I found myself in a state. Eventually, I used libraries to study for exams and prepare for my interviews for university then to research my first novel. Libraries didn’t just save my life, they gave me a whole new one too.

Read more: Budget cuts: Fears the axe could fall on Scots libraries services

The news that Midlothian Council intends to implement cuts to the service that they say will create a total saving of £750,000 pounds over three years is bewildering to me. I’m no politician but you have to wonder whether the economy of saving £250,000 annually weighs up If you consider that the risk is not just losing a library but unofficial, and occasionally official, mother and baby support groups, outreach centres for elderly people, literacy, IT and benefits coaching hubs and, during this cost of living crisis, warm banks too.

Libraries are one of the few remaining public spaces where anyone of any age is welcome to go and won’t be asked to leave or spend a penny. They are not just places to borrow books, though thank goodness you can, but often, as was the case for me, they are a vital lifeline for those who are isolated or suffering with their mental health. With a 2022 report detailing that poor mental health costs the Scottish economy £8.8 billion per year, surely that £250,000 is a literal drop in the ocean?

We owe it to this essential service to fight these cuts however we can. We’ll fight brick by brick if necessary. Libraries have long protected and nurtured our most vulnerable and now we must do all we can to protect them too. 

Read Kerry Hudson’s first column for The Herald on Wednesday