‘Important’ library services improve quality of life

‘Important’ library services improve quality of life according to national survey.

A recent survey has reported that Live Borders’ local library services are ‘important’ or ‘very important’ to almost 100% of respondents, while over 90% of respondents stated that use of library services improved their quality of life.

The Scottish Public Library Annual Survey – conducted for the first time in 2023 – was set up to help measure the impact of local library service provision across the country with a focus on learning and skills, health and well-being, library spaces, and the value and benefits of library services.

93% of respondents said the library was a welcoming space. The survey asked how the library had impacted their lives and 85% said that it led to a greater enjoyment of reading over time; 38% said that the library had given them fun times and/or memories; and 30% said that over time the library had reduced their feelings of isolation or loneliness.

One respondent stated: “Borrowing books from the library is an essential part of maintaining my well-being. I am a carer for my husband and frequently feel isolated. Going to the library helps balance that feeling. It is a friendly, welcoming place with a warm atmosphere.”

Another described the ‘sense of calm’ that libraries provide from chaotic life: “Libraries have provided me with a quiet place to study free from home-life distractions, peer pressure and judgement from trying to do well in my exams,” they wrote. “Whichever town or city I have lived in the library doors are always open and welcoming.”

From a practical perspective, over half of all respondents agreed with the statement that ‘The library provides access to reliable, trusted information which helps people make decisions’.

59% said that the library had helped them learn something or gain new skills; 39% said that the library had helped support their child/children’s learning; 41% said that it had helped them get information about, or access to, other public services; and 51% said that the library had improved their creativity or helped them develop new interests.

“I had a meeting that helped me with my homelessness issue,” wrote one respondent.

Another respondent explained the benefit of library visits to those who might not otherwise have access to books: “I took my class to the library twice a week. In the first visit, library skills were taught, and in the second, the children browsed, chose their book, then sat and listened to a book being read. Many of the children developed a love of reading from those experiences.”

The survey data also indicated significant cost-saving benefits for those using local library services. 68% of the respondents were looking at or borrowing books, newspapers and/or magazines on their last visit, and over 80% (of the total respondents) said their visit has had saved them money.

Lisa Haddow, Live Borders’ Head of Library Services, said: “The Scottish Public Library Annual Survey feedback is evidence of the hugely valuable work that libraries do for individuals, groups and communities. Not only do Live Borders libraries provide practical support and tangible benefits such as cost-saving and access to literature, but the vast number of comments we received highlight the importance of continued provision of library services for positive mental health and well-being across a range of age groups, and ultimately, improved quality of life overall.”