Hands up if you love a public library.
Do you have cosy memories of visiting the library when you were a child? (Apologies here if you are currently have exams looming and feel that right now you have to spend far more time than you would like to in a library!)
We talk a lot about the sharing economy, but – like so many other things – it’s nothing new. Libraries might even be the original publicly-funded sharing space. We’ve always know that we do not need to buy every book we want to read. No, we can borrow it, enjoy it and take it back for someone else to have their turn.
Would you like to hazard a guess as to when the first public library opened in Scotland? 1680! That’s when Innerpeffray Library, based in Innerpeffray Chapel near Crieff, opened, offering access to the private collection of the Drummond family.
The creation of the public library system as we know it today began with the passing of the Public Libraries (Scotland) Act of 1853. The Act gave town councils the power to raise a half-penny tax to provide for a library building and its upkeep and to hire library staff.
There was a prolific period of construction of public libraries between 183 and 1914. Many of these libraries are now among our finest public buildings.
Oh, we forgot to tell say, you can put your hands down now, all those of you who love a library. Here’s another question.
Do you visit your local library regularly?
We all know the phrase, “Use it or lose it”. Just saying …..
Assuming you have crossed the threshold of a library recently, why did you go? Perhaps it was to borrow a book, but maybe you went to read a newspaper, use a computer, attend a group or meeting, or get advice from your council who now use the library as their public face. Maybe you went for a bit of peace and quiet. We’ve done that in the past! Hope you enjoyed it because libraries may not be so peaceful in the future.
These great institutions have had to evolve and they are continuing to do so.
There’s a great new initiative coming in May to nine libraries, spread out geographically across the country. ‘Lend and Mend’ hubs are being set up to give the community free access to repair, reuse, rent and upcycle everyday items, with the admiral aim of helping keep items in use for longer, rather than being thrown away. (It’s all part of the circular economy that we were writing about just last week.)
The scheme will be managed by the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) and funded by the John Lewis Partnership’s £1m Circular Future Fund. Where are these libraries, we hear you say –
· Orkney Library and Archive
· Aberdeen Central Library
· Wester Hailes Library, Edinburgh
· Forfar Library
· South West Library, Inverclyde
· Kilbirnie Library
· Gorebridge Library
· A K Bell Library, Perth
· Girvan Library
Are any of these near you? It’s a pilot scheme, remember, so if you think this is a good idea – and we certainly do - it’s even more important that we actually go along and find out what’s happening, get involved. Use it. Make suggestions or comments that might be useful when evaluating the pilot.
Pamela Tulloch, chief executive of SLIC, said: “The ‘Lend and Mend Hub’ library project has the potential to create a real impact – especially at a time when all of Scotland’s communities are experiencing economic and environmental challenges.
The introduction of this network will build on the important role our public libraries play, giving people access to resources they might not otherwise have to support responsible consumption and learning – with the added benefit of it being local and free.
We believe this pilot project will provide valuable learnings in promoting the urgent need to adopt a more circular way of living and help develop a long-term model for libraries to be a hub of circular economy activities.”
Each hub will be tailored to its community’s needs, using local knowledge and expertise, and will introduce an education programme to support new skills development. This will help to reduce the inequality that comes when not everyone has access to good resources.
Another thing we aim to encourage through our project. Gosh, we like this scheme more and more.
Of course, it’s all very well applauding them, but if we want these ventures to thrive and to grow, we need to do more than just say how well they are doing, what a great idea. It’s not enough to give them a ‘like’ on social media. We need to get involved, to use them and to make sure we tell as many people as possible about them.
How often have you heard, particularly recently, people mourning the collapse of a shop, a service or a local business, but then admitting they had never actually been in or used it ….. too late by then.
Lend and Mend is coming to the chosen libraries soon. It’s part of the circular economy that we were praising just last week. Let’s all get behind it. If you are not near one of the chosen few, you could still support the project by telling people about it. You never know, your conversation might even lead to something similar being set up in your local area.