If the concept of a public library were proposed today, there is no doubt in my mind that it would be rejected by a great number of people as some kind of socialist utopian pipe dream.

Lifetime membership and access to all facilities in perpetuity, entirely for free? No opportunity to up-sell extras or extract additional money from the clientele? No exclusive perks available only to those willing to pay?

This is the paradox of the public library. Despite providing free resources to everyone who walks through its doors, from a purely financial perspective, libraries are a stable and reliable investment: it is estimated that for every £1 put into our libraries we can expect to see between £5-7 back, which adds up to a healthy annual boost of at least £5billion to the UK economy.

Despite the assurance by representatives that “the Scottish Government places great importance on public libraries,” and that they, “believe that everyone should have access to library services”, currently members of the public are having to convince the government not to close many of these vital community resources.

Even though more people are accessing the services each year, libraries up and down the country are being closed at an alarming rate – 1 in 8 libraries in Scotland have closed since 2010 – with funding slashed by as much as 30%.

There's a group in Stirlingshire, the Secret Scribblers, fighting to save local libraries from closure, who have created a collection of art that reflects the vital role a library plays within the community. There are a number of eloquent, lengthy contributions from parents and teachers, but the one that struck me the most was a contribution from a child that simply said, “Dear Library, please, I just love your books”.

We know for a fact that public backlash can turn the tide when it comes to protecting our libraries, Aberdeen council reversed plans to shut six libraries in the area after the outcry the proposal received.

The public library is one of the great levellers in our society: everyone is welcome, everyone is equal. Libraries provide a valuable source of community and knowledge no matter the age and stage of its members, from book bugs inviting children to enjoy the magic of storytelling before they've even learned how to read, to a friendly, familiar and safe space for anyone who wants to engage with books, or any of the many clubs and groups using the library space to meet and organise.

Libraries don't just offer books, they offer free internet access and access to resources and help, unrestricted access to public toilets and, thanks to Scottish legislation to reduce period poverty within our communities, free period products.

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Due to the cost of living crisis and continued economic uncertainty, for many families it is not financially viable to buy books, either for themselves or for their children. When the cost of living expenses such as food, rent and fuel spirals out of control, anything not absolutely essential to survival becomes a luxury.

One in five parents and carers reported that rising cost of living has resulted in them spending less on books for their kids, prompting 25% of families to borrow more books from libraries. With the average cost per book predicted to reach £12 for a paperback and £23 for a hardback this year, a healthy literary appetite is becoming increasingly more expensive.

One parent who contributed to the Secret Scribbles project wrote, “we are very fortunate, we can afford to feed our children's hungry mouths, but we couldn't afford to feed their hungry minds. If a library closes, how many hundreds of young minds go hungry?”

Over 40% of parents reported that their child didn't have a quiet space in which to read at home, which is particularly concerning as currently, one in four Scottish schools no longer have a school library, making local public libraries more important than ever when it comes to ensuring every child has equal access to books, and a whole host of other resources.

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Many libraries run reading programmes and book clubs to incentivise young people to read widely, which can help foster not only a lifelong love of reading, but transferable skills which are essential to academic and professional environments alike.

One of the stated outcomes of the Scottish Government is to close the education attainment gap andd these potential cuts to library services throughout Scotland contradict this aim. Protecting our libraries shows a vested interest not only in the literacy of our communities, but in the community itself, at all ages and stages.

At a time when the negative impacts of long-term isolation are becoming shockingly apparent, libraries represent one of very few spaces where people of all ages can sit for as long as they need to in warmth and comfort, without having to spend a single penny.

Reading itself has been shown to have a significant positive impact on mental health and wellbeing, and can even help to alleviate symptoms of mental illness, and conditions such as dementia. Reading has been shown to reduce stress – something which might be of benefit to 74% of UK adults who reported feeling so stressed that at points they struggled to cope.

Visiting the library won't reduce inflation, it won't make governments less callous, work less demanding, or life less expensive, but it's a quiet, warm space within which information, support and community can be found.

For hundreds of years, public libraries have been embedded in our communities, providing a gateway to knowledge, resources, and fun, free at the point of use. When it comes to funding our library services, we should devote more, not less money to such a vital community resource.

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Things like making libraries more accessible – both through infrastructure such as the inclusion of wheelchair ramps and the removal of heavy doors – and policy, such as home delivery, books available in braille, audiobooks and making spaces dementia friendly, and as accommodating as possible to disabled people and people with additional support needs.

Library closures might not affect the entire community, but for those who rely on it, the negative impact cannot be understated. Shutting a library won't deprive all children within the community of books, but it will ensure that the only people who have access to books are those whose family can afford to provide them.

Education is not, and should never be a privilege or a luxury only afforded to the wealthy, it is a human right, one which we should endeavour to protect at every juncture. Give someone a book and they have access to enjoyment, escapism, and education. Give someone a library card and you ensure this access for a lifetime.