In the digital age, where screens and social media platforms dominate our lives, feelings of anxiety and depression can easily take hold.

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic anxiety levels amongst the population unsurprisingly increased, and recovery has been slow.   A recent Mental Health Foundation survey suggested nearly three-quarters of the population (73%) had felt anxious at least sometimes in the previous two weeks, with one in five people (20%) anxious most or all of the time.

Some groups were said to be more likely to be affected by anxiety than others. Nearly all young people (18 to 24 years) in the research (86%) had felt anxious in the previous two weeks and for over half (58%), this had stopped them undertaking some day-to-day activities.

Scotland’s 500-plus public libraries can play a crucial role tackling this very real problem.

Calm and welcoming, they provide a safe haven for individuals seeking solace and respite from the fast-paced world and, it’s widely acknowledged literature has the power to transport, inspire and heal.

Last year our hugely successful "Keep the Heid and Read!" campaign highlighted reading for just six minutes a day can reduce stress by up to 68 per cent.

But these days libraries are much more than just a safe reading space.

They now offer a wide range of health information, both online and through quality-assured reading lists dealing with the more common health conditions.

In their role as community hubs, libraries also offer non-clinical spaces in localities where health and wellbeing groups can work with the community in a trusted and non-threatening venue.

In addition, they often organise reading groups and events focussing on mental health related themes. These events not only offer opportunities for individuals to explore literature together but also foster a sense of community and support.

Research suggests that social connections and a sense of belonging are crucial factors in maintaining good mental health, and public libraries effectively facilitate these connections.

A range of innovative solutions are also available with many libraries having spaces for board games, knit and natter sessions and memory groups to name but a few.

Read more: New drive to make 'every child' a library card holder

It is crucial to recognise and celebrate the vital role Scottish public libraries play in promoting mental health. By embracing the healing power of literature, fostering social connections and expanding their services to meet evolving needs, these libraries are beacons of hope in an increasingly complex world.

This is more important than ever during the cost of living crisis, where libraries are providing a safe space for people struggling with increasing bills, including the cost of heating their homes.

As Scotland’s mental health crisis continues to make the headlines, Scotland’s libraries have proven themselves to be integral pillars of support.

We must celebrate our libraries as spaces to read, and recognise that they create a supportive environment which nurtures mental well-being, fosters community and provides access to resources.

Pamela Tulloch is chief executive of the Scottish Library and Information Council