LOCAL authorities in Scotland have invested more than £20 million in public libraries in the past 18 months.

The figure represents the combined capital spend on 14 new and refurbished public library premises that have opened in areas across the country since March 2017.

As Libraries Week (October 8 to 13), the national celebration of libraries, gets underway, the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) has welcomed the investment as an indication of the strong commitment to public library services.

Additional funding has also been allocated for modernising libraries through initiatives like free public WiFi in all libraries, 3D printing resources, the introduction of a film education programme and the expansion of Code Club – a free class that teaches children how to code – to more libraries.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop, said: “Libraries Week celebrates the vital role of our libraries in Scotland and the fantastic service provided by staff and volunteers. I welcome this year’s focus on ‘wellbeing’, which fits in well with the Scottish Government’s commitment to promoting social wellbeing and tackling social isolation and inequality through increased access to library services.

“Since 2014, we have invested more than £5 million to help re-invigorate the role of public libraries, providing funds to support local and national activity. This includes delivering free public WiFi in all libraries, delivering Code Clubs aimed at children in all library services and providing health and wellbeing support such as access to health information, supporting people with dementia and tackling social isolation and loneliness.

“I congratulate all who work in and support our libraries and I encourage local communities throughout Scotland to continue to use and benefit from the wide range of services that our local libraries provide.”

Pamela Tulloch, chief executive of the SLIC said: “In Scotland, we’re proud to have a national public library strategy and it has provided a framework for the transformation of services in the 21st century. In some areas, this has led to some venue closures to make way for a more relevant and flexible model of delivery. However, local government has continued to invest in the estate, demonstrated by the significant capital spend.

“Public libraries have faced a challenging time in recent years amidst public spending cuts. However, they have shown tremendous resilience and are adapting services to meet the needs of modern users. Commitment to public libraries remains strong in Scotland, reflected in visit numbers.”