By Pamela Tulloch, chief executive at the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC)

IT’S the “highlight of my month.” That’s how one mobile library user in Dundee responded when asked what the service meant to her.

There are many more comments from hundreds of library users that demonstrate the personal connection and benefits people experience from using their local mobile library service: “It helps me manage my mental health problem.”; “Reading makes me happy, reading makes me sleep well.”; “It provides a meeting place to connect with neighbours.”; “This service has enriched my life.”

I have worked in public library services for many years, so I know the positive impact that libraries have on individuals and communities. But even I was surprised at the strength of emotion we found through our research.

We conducted a review of mobile services in Scotland to examine their value. We asked users how mobile libraries impact their lives in terms of literacy, health and wellbeing, culture and loneliness and isolation. The research, Libraries on the Move, has confirmed what we suspected: that mobile library services are greatly valued by communities.

More than 98 per cent of respondents rated the service as very or extremely valuable. Users value the personal service from staff. Mobile libraries offer people a sense of belonging and help them overcome feelings of isolation and loneliness, especially elderly people. And, as you would expect, there was praise for the role they play in improving literacy and reading for pleasure.

We now have a robust evidence base that demonstrates the benefits that mobile libraries bring to remote communities and the role they play in people’s lives.

Mobile libraries are lifelines for remote and rural communities, particularly for people who may find it difficult to get to their local library building, such as elderly people or those with disabilities.

It is vital that decision makers and policy makers are aware of the many ways that mobile services benefit communities. They can help local and national government achieve priorities around learning and attainment, health and wellbeing and cultural and leisure experiences.

Today we celebrate the first ever Mobile Libraries Day in Scotland to recognise the work they do, as well as remind those responsible for key planning, management and budget decisions that these services are vital to the wellbeing and prosperity of communities.

Currently, there are 49 mobile libraries in Scotland, operated by 22 library services, from Shetland to the Scottish Borders. Combined, the 49 mobiles serve a network of more than 3,000 stops. There are almost 37,000 active mobile library users who made more than 274,000 visits to a mobile library during 2017/18. While the active membership represents, on average, around eight per cent of total library members across services with a mobile, in some areas, such as the Highlands, mobile services are reaching almost one fifth of active membership.

Mobile library services have been around for more than 100 years. As with all public services, it is important to consider whether new innovations and technology can drive change. However, the broad scope of the mobile library service deems it somewhat unique and difficult to replicate in other ways. It is much more than a book delivery service; the research proves there is a strong social and personal connection, which cannot be ignored or diminished.

Our research project has provided us and our members with a body of research to back-up and demonstrate the wide-ranging benefits. At a time when public libraries continue to face funding pressures, the evidence base will hopefully prove vital to safeguard the future investment in services.

The Libraries on the Move research is available to read online at