Most of us will have fond memories of spending time in a library during childhood, but the institutions that were once an integral part of our communities are now under threat, with a combination of budget cuts and a move to digital learning leaving some Scottish libraries on the brink of closure.

But all is not lost. While some libraries face an uncertain future, Scotland still has an impressive collection of thriving independent libraries that defy the suggestion they have no future in our digital world.

Indeed, last month saw the opening of the first community-owned library to be built in Scotland for decades. The Thomas Graham Library, in Strathblane, was largely financed by crowdfunding, with a quarter of households in the Stirlingshire village investing in the new facility. The new library also received backing from local businessman Angus Graham, with the facility named after his great uncle Thomas, a revered professor of chemistry.

Some of the first visitors through the doors were 95-year-old Agnes Lyness and three-year-old Ruairidh Balfour – proving the broad appeal that a library can have. 
Undoubtedly impressive, Strathblane’s new facility is far from the only one of its kind in Scotland. It joins a proud list of other noteworthy libraries across the country, all keeping the written word on the page alive and providing a vital learning resource and social hub for communities. Here are a few standout venues...


This is the only accredited museum in the UK dedicated to women’s lives, histories and achievements. Their lending library focuses on unusual books by, for, and about women: covering topics like the Suffragettes, lesbian history, film, art, photography and more. You can borrow for free by joining the library (located in Bridgeton in the east end of the city) or browse their catalogue online.

The first free public lending library established in Scotland, this has been operating since 1680. Visitors can wander around the peaceful grounds – found just outside of Crieff in Perthshire – or embark on one of the guided tours. The collection includes books from as early as 1476, with visitors welcome to turn the pages of most books in the library (except for some of the most fragile volumes).


Aiming to make poetry accessible to all, this Edinburgh library was founded by Tessa Ransford, herself a poet, after she realised public libraries weren’t promoting poetry beyond the most well-known texts. She started with a few rooms off the Royal Mile and around 300 books of poetry: a collection that has now grown to include more than 45,000 items.

As well as a large library housed in a state-of-the-art building in Lerwick, there is a recently expanded mobile library service that frequently travels across the islands. A priority is work with children, ensuring families are engaged with literacy.

The library was named after philanthropist Arthur Kinmond Bell, a partner in Bell’s whisky, whose trust fund was a major contributor towards it. Visitors can access a wealth of information on the history of Perthshire, and also get a sweet treat from the well-regarded Coffee Cart.

One of a small number of surviving independent libraries which still holds its books in original cabinets, it was erected in 1687 in a A-listed building. It houses the book collection of Bishop Leighton (1611 - 1684) of Dunblane. Undergoing restoration, it will reopen in early 2024.