Make sure to have your say on the future of our libraries - Steve Cardownie

Back when I was a councillor I had responsibility for the city’s libraries as part of my remit for a good number of years, and I am only too well aware of the role that they play and the pleasure that they bring to the Edinburgh public.
Central Library in Edinburgh opened in 1890, and was the first public library building in the cityCentral Library in Edinburgh opened in 1890, and was the first public library building in the city
Central Library in Edinburgh opened in 1890, and was the first public library building in the city

During that time libraries were evolving apace. No longer just confined to loaning out books, they strove to meet the challenge of the public’s expectations and embraced new methods, ensuring that they continued to be embedded in communities. Music and children’s sections were introduced and developed, attracting new borrowers, and with some refurbishments provided a hub for communities, where meetings could be held, and lectures given.

From our flagship Central Library on George IV Bridge to our branch libraries dotted throughout the city, councillors were determined to offer them as much protection from budget cuts as we could, which allowed them to remain open. While other local authorities throughout the UK were closing libraries or cutting their hours of opening we resisted, providing ring-fenced funding for the service.

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Edinburgh Central Library opened in June 1890 prompting Andrew Carnegie (the Scottish industrialist and philanthropist) to send a telegram marking the event, saying: “We trust that this library is to grow in usefulness year after year, and prove one of the most potent agencies for the good pf the people for all time to come.”

The City of Edinburgh Council informs us that: “There are now 28 libraries across the city, each serving their community and promoting a love of learning.”

Which brings me up to the present. The council embarked on a library consultation exercise in January of this year, which closes on the 19th of this month. It opens with the statement: “We have an exciting opportunity to create a new Future Libraries Strategy and vision that will provide a framework for service delivery and development for the next five years… We’re asking you to get involved by having your say, helping us to shape a new plan that will ensure the library service is sustainable and fit for the future.”

The exercise is to proceed in two stages, the first of which is to “identify what works well and how we can improve the service for all our customers.”

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The second stage, which is earmarked to run from June until August/September, is to “shape the draft strategy and any proposals for future change based on the feedback we gather from stage one and available budgets”.

A draft report will then be presented to the council’s culture and communities committee in October which will set out a draft libraries strategy and “recommendations for change”.

The council states as part of the stage one process that: “We would like to hear your views whether you currently use the service or not. We will do all we can to make it as easy as possible for everyone to have a say.

“You can give us feedback by completing this online questionnaire or by using printed copies in Libraries which can be handed in to your nearest library.”

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Further info can be found at; which should hopefully attract enough positive feedback to ensure that this invaluable asset continues to go from strength to strength.