PLANS to modernise the National Library of Scotland (NLS) and support its work in bringing the nation’s history and culture to life were published today.
The National Library of Scotland Bill is aimed at modernising the governance arrangements for the institution and strengthening its role in safeguarding and sharing its collections.
Publishing the Bill, Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The NLS is one of Europe’s leading libraries and a world centre for the study of Scotland and the Scots. Its collections span the centuries, from the first printed book – the Gutenberg Bible of 1455 – to modern business directories, contemporary digitised music, photographs, films and maps, many of which can be accessed online.
“More than 150,000 people visited the Library last year and there are over two million visits to its website every year.
“As the Library continues to make more of its collections available online, in response to the changing needs of its customers, it is important that legislation keeps pace with the requirement to preserve and develop our national collections for generations to come.”
The Bill will define the functions of NLS and update its powers in line with those of modern public bodies. It will also reduce the size of the NLS Board, remove reserved places, and ensure all appointments are made by Scottish Ministers based on merit and selection, bringing the NLS into line with current public appointments practice.
Martyn Wade, National Librarian and Chief Executive of the NLS, said: “The Library has changed immeasurably since the previous legislation was passed in 1925. We have fully embraced the digital age and made more than 1.5 million manuscripts, letters, books, newspapers, and market research reports available to anyone in Scotland with an internet connection. The Bill recognises and reflects our role in the 21st century and is very welcome.”
Professor Michael Anderson, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, said: “Trustees have long recognised the need to reform the composition of the Board. They will be looking to ensure that the Bill gives them all the powers necessary to take the Library forward in the long-term interests of the nation.”
Reinforcing the Government’s support for the valuable work and benefits of libraries at all levels, the Cabinet Secretary also announced today that funding for local libraries is being protected in 2012-13, with an allocation of £500,000 through the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC).
This will support SLIC’s Public Library Quality Improvement Fund which provides grants to local authorities to help them improve library services and digital participation projects.
Ms Hyslop added: “Encouraging digital participation across all sections of Scotland’s society enables people to access services and information as more of these are moved online. Public libraries are a key resource in our strategy to ensure more people understand how to use and take advantage of digital technology.”
Elaine Fulton, Director of SLIC, said: “SLIC is delighted that the Scottish Government continues to show its support for public libraries in Scotland. Libraries empower individuals and support communities. This fund allows services to be creative and build services which support literacy, skills development and independent and healthy living.”