Scotland’s public library strategy

Jacqueline Geekie is an Information Literacy and Learning Librarian and the Information Literacy Group’s public library rep. In this post, she talks about Scotland’s updated Public Library Strategy and how it addresses information literacy.

Photo of Jacqueline Geekie
Jacqueline Geekie

This week the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) published their updated Public Library Strategy called Forward which covers the period 2021 – 2025.  Back in December I attended one of the workshops to discuss staff development required by library staff to provide the type of service required for the next 5 years.  Seldom do we get the opportunity to spend a day examining the work we currently do as well as horizon scanning for the services we will provide in the future.

Prior to the session I spent time thinking about everything we do within Live Life Aberdeenshire and found that I covered a full A4 page very quickly.  It was a cathartic experience to spend time thinking about the services we provide for the residents of Aberdeenshire and it is valuable to take time to reflect on what we provide, how things have changed in the current environment and what changes may come.

To give some context in the strategy, there is a National Performance Framework which brings together national policies which govern everything we do in local government.  Health Literacy features by highlighting the Making it easier document with Information Literacy featuring within the document Fairer Scotland which has the ambition of having empowered citizens who make informed decisions.

In the previous Public library strategy digital was a standalone strand but it is now felt that digital is, and should be, embedded within everything we do. However it is recognised that Digital Exclusion still exists and the document A changing Nation: How Scotland will Thrive in a Digital World (2021) outlines how Scotland will continue to reduce the digital divide.

Within the strategy there are three Ps with each having five strategic aims:

People – Libraries will support people and communities to reach their full potential and celebrate the unique skill set of staff.

Place – Libraries will be recognised as both valued places and place makers, with community led design at it’s heart.

Partnership – Libraries will deliver on local and national priorities through a strategic approach to collaboration and partnership.

One Strategic aim which stood out to me that I would like to explore further in my work is within People which is “to encourage active citizenship through access to trusted accurate information which empowers communities to make informed citizens”.

This strikes me as firmly placing information literacy within the strategy which is hugely encouraging for those of us who work in libraries and also fits nicely with the CILIP Definition of Information Literacy which was devised the Information Literacy Group.

Each aim has a local action for individual library services with collaborative actions for national organisation such as SLIC.  For instance, they will develop Media literacy awareness programmes in which library services will participate which will link nicely with the Media and Information Literacy Alliance which is a joint initiative between CILIP and the Information Literacy Group.

The strategy also highlights a Public Library Improvement Fund (PLIF) which North Ayrshire Libraries  completed to allow residents and staff to explore the Council’s Open Data Sets.  Over 250 people took part in hackathon type events which resulted in 100% increase in the number of visits to the data and those who took part had an increased knowledge of how to access and use the data.

The pandemic has caused us all to stop and take stock of the work we do, and this strategy provides several hooks on which to place our work streams.  We have a lot of work ahead of us, but this strategy will aid those of us working in Public Libraries to continue to promote Information Literacy in order to fulfil the stategy vision “to enable and empower Scotland’s communities through public libraries.”

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