Call for Edinburgh to set reopening timetable for libraries amid fears vulnerable could be left behind

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The professional body representing Scotland’s librarians has called on Edinburgh to set dates for reopening the Capital’s libraries.

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All 28 city libraries are currently closed because of the Covid lockdown, but under the Scottish Government’s easing of restrictions they would be allowed to open from Monday.

However, the city council has no dates for any libraries starting up again.

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Central Library on George IV Bridge will be one of the first to reopen - but when?Central Library on George IV Bridge will be one of the first to reopen - but when?
Central Library on George IV Bridge will be one of the first to reopen - but when?

And the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIP) has written to council chiefs raising concerns about the lack of a reopening timetable. It says as the country looks to a recovery programme, libraries have “never been more needed”.

Sean McNamara, head of CILIP in Scotland, said Glasgow had provided clear dates for reopening.

He said: “Plans are being put in place all across Scotland for reopening libraries after April 26 and yet the capital city, the UNESCO City of Literature, is in danger of falling behind with still no clear dates and libraries being handed over to the NHS in places where communities are in desperate need to access library services.”

CILIP – which voiced similar criticism last year – said public libraries welcomed 43 million visits a year before Covid, making them more popular than Scotland’s professional football matches.

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And it said they provided vital digital access and helped improve mental health by reducing social isolation.

It acknowledged libraries had offered online services throughout the pandemic, but said the continuing digital divide meant some of those who most needed libraries, such as those living in poverty, young people with no access to reading at home and older people without digital skills, could not access the services they depended on.

"Where libraries open more slowly, there is a real danger that some of the most vulnerable people will be left behind.”

The council said nine libraries which opened after the first lockdown would reopen in due course – Central, Fountainbridge, Kirkliston, McDonald Road, Stockbridge, Craigmillar, Drumbrae, Gilmerton, and Wester Hailes.

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Newington, which also opened then, is now being used as a Covid test centre, as are Leith, Sighthill and Oxgangs.

Culture convener Donald Wilson said: “Libraries are a vital requirement in any democratic society, giving access to knowledge and literature, helping to bridge the digital divide and supporting literacy. It remains our priority to get these services restored as soon as possible.”

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