Scotland has long had a love affair with libraries.

Scotland's libraries are more popular than any other part of the UK, with 61 per cent of the public using libraries in Scotland, higher than in England and Wales, and they receive over 28 million visits each year, with a further 13.8 million virtual visits.

We know that Scotland's libraries are well loved, trusted and valued assets in communities and our research shows that their role is as critical today as it was when they were first established. However, we need to refresh what the service offers and ensure as many people as possible benefit and that policy shapers and decision makers are aware of their key strengths and potential.

Since they were established, libraries have had a key role in supporting literacy and equality of opportunity. In the digital age, that role is increasingly important. There can be no digital literacy, health literacy, information literacy without basic literacy and that is still a very real challenge facing many people living in Scotland today. Libraries are the original 'street corner universities', providing support for people to reach their potential, as well as shelter from the storm of unemployment, skills gaps, ill health and domestic upheaval.

However, there is a very strong incentive for libraries to build and promote a stronger and more relevant role for the service in a digital information age.

In addition, public sector reform and the challenging fiscal environment provide further reason for a renewed approach. Public library services need to be able to clearly articulate and more consistently deliver the role they play in helping communities to improve their economic and social wellbeing to maintain their relevance in modern times.

That's why the time is right - some may say long overdue - for the publication of Scotland's first public library strategy.

'Ambition & Opportunity - a strategy for public libraries in Scotland 2015-2020' has been designed to re-invigorate the role and perception of libraries and in particular sets out how libraries can create a service fit for the 21st century.

The strategy provides a framework to enable libraries to flourish at a local level. It champions the local aspect of libraries as community hubs because this is where libraries demonstrate their greatest value. By delivering a flexible service that is tailored to the needs of local people, libraries can help communities to become stronger and more successful.

Public services are under continuing pressure as local authorities seek to drive efficiencies in line with central government spending cuts. In Scotland, we have avoided the extent of library cuts and closures witnessed in England and Wales and the Scottish Government has supported libraries and realised their potential. But there will continue to be increasing pressure on budgets and local authorities will have to review and prioritise spend.

The strategy recognises current financial challenges and encourages library services to set out the case to decision makers for library investment based on their impact on the preventative spend agenda and how they support economic and social wellbeing policy goals.

Libraries in Scotland generate an annual return on investment of £166 per user, at a cost of only £21 per head of population, which is remarkably good value for money. In addition, library services can help to generate cost savings across the board.

Libraries support access to opportunities for all, free of charge at the point of delivery. It is this unique quality that will enable libraries to carve out a relevant role for the future as centres of learning, innovation and creativity that can support the delivery of policy goals. Every community has a library that can be used as an access point to support other public services and help meet a number of national policy outcomes, such as tackling inequalities, improving education and skills and supporting business and employment. We have over 500 library venues, with librarians and other resources, who can help meet government objectives given the right level of investment and direction.

Although libraries in Scotland have a diverse governance model - some sit within councils and some within trusts - they are all delivered locally, shifting to the demands of communities. This local aspect must remain, but the strategy provides a consistent, national narrative to help support individuals to reach their full potential and ensure libraries remain a core part of Scottish culture and heritage.

Amina Shah is chief executive of the Scottish Library and Information Council