Review of Equalities in the National Library of Scotland 2008


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The National Library of Scotland (NLS) has adopted statutory Equality Schemes for disability equality (2006), gender equality (2007) and race (2007). In addition to these documents deriving from statutory obligations, NLS is committed to fair and equitable treatment of all staff, users and potential users through its overall equalities policy and corporate strategy. All these documents can be accessed on the Library's website.

This document provides an interim review of progress for 2008, in partial discharge of our statutory obligations. It is an interim, rather than full review, because NLS intends to streamline its equalities reporting and planning through the adoption of an integrated Equalities scheme during 2009 which will bring together all equalities reporting.

The NLS Equalities Group (16 October 2008) and Management Forum (26 November 2008) considered data on use of the Library by readers, with particular reference to age, gender, ethnic origin and disability. Key points appear to be:

  • There is an increasing proportion of female readers of NLS, with women now appearing to be more likely than men to register as readers (52.5%). This trend (or increasing female use) appears consistent over the past four years.
  • The proportion of younger people (under 26) is increasing (now 39.4%), while older (65+) reader numbers remain broadly stable, with a slight decline in use by the in-between age range.
  • Use by non-white readers has been fairly stable at between 11-12%. This proportion is considerably above the figure for minority ethnic people in Scotland, and reflects the considerable use of NLS by researchers from Asia in particular.
  • The proportion of readers declaring themselves to have a disability remains fairly constant, and low, at around 3%.

There is currently little data available about the use of other important NLS services, for example the profile of visitors to exhibitions, events and educational activities, and the increasingly-important online users.

NLS has conducted a number of staff surveys, inter alia in order to gain insight into equalities issues. NLS adopted a new Human Resources database which offers improved ability to interrogate data.


The pattern of users referred to above provides some evidence that NLS is broadly equitable, with increasing use by women and young people, and maintaining a high level of use by people from ethnic minority backgrounds. However, the low figures on use by disabled people remain a serious concern and is addressed in the Further work and action section below.

The increasing proportion of younger people and women is thought to be associated with increased use of the Library by students. This factor is also likely to contribute to the high percentage of overseas, non-white researchers, many of whom are also students.

Further work and action

In terms of monitoring and planning for equalities, NLS intends to adopt the following approach in 2009/10:

  • Adoption of an overall Single Equalities Scheme by January 2010. This will not only reduce bureaucracy, but will ensure that other areas of equality not covered by current statutory requirements are addressed.
  • Improved collection, reporting and analysis of data on users (in person and remote) in order to better understand patterns of use and potential differences in service requirements from different user communities. This will include reports to the NLS Equalities group, Senior Management Team and Board of Trustees. These will encompass NLS staff, as well as users.
  • Ensuring that planning for equalities is fully integrated with and embedded into wider corporate planning activity. For example, all divisional and departmental plans include a section for outlining planned work in this field.
  • Discussion with sister organisations (such as the National Galleries and National Museums of Scotland) over the adoption of best practice and, where productive, collaboration on adopting common policy approaches to equalities.

In terms of substantive action, the Corporate Plan for 2009/10 is under development, but is likely to include:

  • The need to address technical difficulties relating to access to reading rooms in George IV Bridge and Causewayside, as part of the Visitor centre project and overcoming problems associated with evacuation plans.
  • Improved reliability of lifts to level 11 at George IV Bridge.
  • Development of a new pay and reward system for NLS, which takes full account of fairness and equality, including gender issues indentified in the NLS Gender Equality Scheme.
  • Take account of all equalities and language issues as the new Integrated Collections Strategy is cascaded through to more detailed collecting policies, for example covering Scottish legal deposit.
  • Diversity is a priority theme in the Library's People Strategy.

David Hunter
Strategy and Performance Manager

27 November 2008



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