Continuity and change: The voices of Scottish librarians

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This article reflects on the evolution of public libraries in Scotland and, in particular, the impact and consequences of austerity measures on Andrew Carnegie’s foundational belief that public libraries are for the ‘good of the people’. It does this first by situating Scottish libraries in their historical context and examining MacDougall’s (2017) rich accounts of those working in the sector from the 1930s to late 1990s. This was demonstrably a period of profound social change, and one which offered the sector multiple opportunities. Library services were able to evolve and expand, both as a profession, and in their position as a core public service in local communities. The second part of the article turns to data collected as part of ongoing research funded by the Leverhulme Trust on the value of the modern public library. The accounts presented are from those currently working with, and for, public libraries. Continuity is observed in the fundamental principles that library staff aspire to uphold. The critical change is in their ability to deliver these principles in the face of ever-increasing austerity cuts, experienced as a continual ‘chipping’ away of services. This, combined with growing demands for welfare services from communities increasingly burdened by poverty, means the library service is more important than ever before – yet in a greater position of precariousness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395–413
Number of pages19
JournalScottish Affairs
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • public library
  • austerity
  • librarians
  • public services
  • Scotland


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