​We must support our libraries and community hubs - Foysol Choudhury

Foysol Choudhury MSPFoysol Choudhury MSP
Foysol Choudhury MSP
Libraries provide communities with a multitude of benefits. Not only do they give free access to books but they are also community hubs with clubs, events, room hires and warm, welcoming spaces.

Last week I visited Drumbrae library alongside Cllr Val Walker, to learn more about library provisions. Impressive service use levels are a testament to the importance of public libraries and access to free reading materials.

Although many resources are available online now, print material is still incredibly important for many, especially for readers to try a wide variety of books to help develop speech, literacy and creative thinking skills, as well as encourage families to spend quality time reading with children.

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Free resources are especially important for those from economically deprived backgrounds who may not have access to shop-bought reading materials, as they ensure equal access to the positive benefits of reading across our community. The importance of our public libraries is undeniable and the strength of public opinion supports this.

Earlier this year, Edinburgh Council consulted on their Future Libraries Strategy. It drew an overwhelming 14,000 responses-showing just how important these library services are for local communities.

Hopefully, with the feedback from the consultation, Edinburgh’s libraries can be strengthened to meet service users’ needs and revitalise their place at the heart of the community.

One way of doing this could be through joined up provision via community centres, as we hope to see with the new Macmillan hub which plans to hold both a Muirhouse library and other community services such as a creative arts space, Early Years facility and employability support.

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Providing these community services in one space will hopefully create easily accessible community libraries alongside other community provision, ensuring fully served and thriving communities.

We must see sufficient funding to local authorities so they can deliver these services. We must also see more support given to community groups so that community reading initiatives can thrive-such as the Little Free Libraries which can be seen across Edinburgh.

These boxes are well used and allow not only a sense of thriving, well-served communities, but also again allow vital access to reading materials for all, regardless of economic background.

As we head towards this summer’s Edinburgh Book Festival, and beyond, I’m continuing to support this call for more support for our libraries and reading initiatives.

Dig out your library card and join me in supporting our community libraries!

Foysol Choudhury is Labour MSP for Lothian

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