A third of Scotland’s librarians report that their “whole service” is at risk due to ongoing cuts, according to new research.

Discussing the findings, The Chief Executive of the Scottish Book Trust said that reductions in funding and staff levels mean that libraries are now “endangered”.

The latest revelations come from the interim report of an “independent research project into the value and impact of public and school libraries in Scotland.” A total of 496 librarians completed the research survey between October 2023 and January 2024: 315 of these are from public libraries, 41 are from primary schools, and the remaining 140 are from secondary schools.

The report authors note, however, that the term ‘librarian’ refers to “any library worker” due to the large number of staff working without a professional qualification. Less than a third of respondents from public libraries were qualified librarians, while the figures from primary and secondary schools were 14% and 70% respectively.

The headline finding from the research is that one third of librarians “reported that their whole service is at risk of reduction or losses”.

The same proportion said that they have recently lost “dedicated librarians and other library staff”, while more than 80% reported a “restriction on their funding and resources.”

The research also highlights the wide range of services provided by libraries. Respondents stated that the most popular reading activities included children’s Bookbug sessions, craft sessions, reading challenges, Book Week Scotland, book clubs and cafés, and author visits.

Libraries also offer specific learning services for adults: on top of the 96% who said that users can access free WiFi and computers, 64% said that they provide support with digital skills and devices, 34% reported that they provide employability materials, and 26% said that they work with partners or the local council to provide “further community learning resources.”

The contribution towards 'closing the attainment gap' is also highlighted.

Marc Lambert, Chief Executive of Scottish Book Trust, said:

“Libraries are a vital lifeline for communities across Scotland. Not only do they provide free access to books in a warm and safe environment, but, as this wide-ranging report reveals, they are also a levelling up factory that sends people in a positive direction.

 “There is no other public space where people can access information, combat digital poverty, learn new skills, socialise with others, express themselves creatively, and seek to self-improve, entirely for free. It’s incredibly concerning that these important institutions are endangered.”

Sean McNamara, director of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals Scotland (CILIPS), said:

"We welcome this report from the Scottish Book Trust and are pleased to note that it highlights the vital impact of libraries on communities by helping close the poverty attainment gap, reducing the digital divide, providing essential free access to books and resources and being safe, trusted and accessible spaces.

“However, it makes stark and deeply concerning reading about the impact of over a decade of cuts within local government resulting in fewer resources and staff, and with worries about more on the cards.

“Our life-changing libraries and public services desperately need additional financial support and a funding model that allows their staff to look forward and plan with greater reassurance and positivity."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said:

“While the provision of schools libraries is the responsibility of local authorities, the Scottish Government has provided £1.85 million to projects through the School Library Improvement Fund since 2017, and £450,000 towards the Public Library Improvement Fund project

“Any decision around public libraries must be considered extremely carefully and local authorities should work in partnership with communities to explore innovative ways of delivering services.

"We believe libraries are at the heart of Scotland’s communities. That is why we provide annual funding to the Scottish Libraries and Information Council to provide leadership and advice to libraries.

“These diverse projects exemplify the transformative power of libraries, from introducing digital inclusiveness to teaching about economic wellbeing, and can help improve people’s lives in the communities they serve."