National Librarian's introduction
In 2015, the National Library of Scotland launched 'The Way Forward: Library Strategy, 2015-2020' as the first of two five-year strategies to take the Library to its centenary in 2025. 'Reaching People: Library Strategy, 2020-2025' is the second strategy, concluding in the year the Library celebrates its 100th anniversary.
There are strong elements of continuity between the two. This is clearest in our continued focus on safeguarding collections and improving access to them. These two areas were strongly supported in our public consultations and link directly to our statutory function as Scotland’s legal deposit library.
However, there are important differences between the strategies. 'Reaching People: Library Strategy, 2020-2025' will emphasise connecting with multiple audiences and enriching lives with our content and services.
The first five years of our 10-year journey to our centenary focussed on building infrastructure, capacity and resilience, while growing partnerships, reputation and income. The second period concentrates on sharing information, knowledge and experiences with a diverse audience in Scotland and around the globe.
In developing this strategy, we have listened carefully to the results of audience surveys and to user feedback. These have told us clearly about the need to enhance the facilities in the George IV Bridge building in Edinburgh and the desire for greater access to collections in digital formats.
To achieve this, we will launch a series of programmes and projects to deliver important aspects of our plans for the next five years. Work has begun on the potential redevelopment of the main Library building in Edinburgh. A programme of preservation and digitisation of moving image and sound will save some of the most fragile formats in the country from disintegration. A project will be developed to preserve, digitise and make available to the nation Scotland’s newspaper heritage.
We will also continue to explore opportunities to reach people outside Scotland's central belt. We have partially addressed this by significantly expanding our digital services over the last five years. The new strategy aims to intensify this work. The events of 2020 have demonstrated how important this is. In a similar vein, we will bring to the foreground our web-archiving activity and electronic legal deposit of published content as a growing source for Scotland's online memory. In the first wave of initiatives, a large-scale digitisation project with an international partner will be pursued.
The Library will address the silences, including historical biases, in our collections. We will analyse our inventory to identify and recognise under-represented communities to allow us to create a more representative national collection into the future.
A powerful backdrop to our deliberations has been a strong sense of Scotland’s historical and cultural past. Few countries have more fully embraced the ability of literacy, education and civic discourse to improve their people and develop their economy. The Library will continue to be a place where ideas, debate and discussion take place.
We have seen in the year we commence this new strategy how important it is that we are prepared for rapid change which will require flexible working and creative thinking. Our response to the COVID pandemic demonstrated an agility that will frame our thinking for the next decade.
Of equal importance has been the recent publication of 'A Culture Strategy for Scotland' by the Scottish Government (February, 2020) which will provide important national guidance for our work.
The Library strategy has been produced in collaboration with the Library Board, its staff, our partners, groups and individuals. The feedback and ideas are reflected in the final document. I am extremely grateful for all the ideas, enthusiasm and support we have received throughout this conversation about the future shape and direction of the National Library.
Working together, I am confident that' Reaching People: Library Strategy 2020-2025' will make the Library a truly national library fit for the 21st century when we celebrate our 100th birthday.
The Operating Environment
Participation in cultural activities is at a historical high and the overall use of the Library's content is buoyant. However, the way the Library is used is changing. Though the number of reading room visits is steady, we have seen greater numbers visit to view the exhibitions, attend talks and take part in other educational activities.
The way people access culture using digital technology also continues to evolve, so we must keep innovating to meet demand and stay relevant. In the coming years, it will be necessary to deliver our services through multiple channels for those who may not have access to our buildings.
Most of the Library's income is from the Scottish Government. The Library has vast physical collections, requiring more than 150 miles of shelving across four different sites. Our expanding digital collections are held in two datacentres in Edinburgh and Glasgow and, increasingly, in the Cloud.
All of this needs to be regularly refreshed and upgraded to preserve the national collection from threats such as fire, water, bit-rot (deterioration of data) and cyber-attacks. Nevertheless, we know that there are many competing demands and that pressure on public funding is likely to continue. Over the past five years, there has been more reliance on external grants and donations. The diversity of the Library's income will continue to grow.
Although the Library has always been a strong advocate of open access, we know there are socio-economic and geographical variances in how people engage with the Library. Accordingly, themes of equality, diversity and inclusion underpin the new strategy and we know this is an area where we must strive to make our collections and services more representative of the whole nation.
Partnerships will continue to be of critical importance. Our relationship with the Faculty of Advocates goes back more than 300 years and our work with the other five legal deposit libraries is fundamental in collecting, preserving and making available digital and physical content. We continue to learn by working with other organisations and these partnerships help us identify where we can become stronger. Over the past five years, Memoranda of Understanding have been signed with the universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, BBC Scotland. The Library has also gone on the road with its touring exhibitions. More of these partnerships and collaborations will help us develop services for the people of Scotland and extend our user base.
Much has been achieved over the past five years. There has been more experimentation and some well-judged risk-taking. We have developed our own voice on social media – a mix of humour and candid views on the role of libraries in an era of misinformation.
What the National Library will look like in 2025
The National Library will be a familiar and valued institution across Scotland, recognised for its outstanding collections and services. It will be known as a Library with responsive and accessible services, simple to find and easy to use at the click of a button, the tap of a screen, or by simply walking into one of our buildings.
As Scotland's premier research library, we will be a place where researchers and scholars are valued and supported as our original core audience. We are continually evolving our services and growing our collections to meet their varying needs.
Many of our visitors will be regulars, taking the opportunity to enhance their knowledge of family, community, hobbies or current issues such as climate change. Those studying towards qualifications, pursuing continuous professional development or researching a business idea, will find a mixture of tailored resources to satisfy their information needs. Young people and families will increasingly find the Library a welcoming place, with a growing programme of events designed for them.
The Library's collections will be more comprehensive and more representative of the whole nation. Our physical and digital collecting will be guided by our role as the guardian of the published and recorded memory of Scotland. Our web-archiving and digital collecting activities across the nation will be deeper, wider and more representative. We will address the silences in our collections to ensure that a richer variety of voices, views and experiences are collected, described and curated.
The Library's digital scholarship services will be amongst the best in Europe, delivered through the Data Foundry, a dynamic destination where our data can be downloaded, reused and replayed.
By 2025, we will be a Library that offers a personalised experience to every citizen in Scotland.
Mission, vision and how we work
To enhance Scotland's international reputation by making a significant and lasting contribution to global knowledge and the memory of the world.
To create opportunities for people to participate in Scotland's rich cultural life as one of the leading national libraries in Europe.
How we work:
The National Library of Scotland is a place for inspiration, exploration, and enjoyment. Everyone is treated with dignity and respect.
These are our guiding principles:
We commit to openness and transparency in all areas of our work. We aim to make our collections and our related work free, open and reusable wherever possible.
We provide accurate and reliable information to support debate and discussion.
We are responsive and inclusive as we build and interpret collections for current and future generations. We will challenge ourselves, our assumptions and our policies in order to create a more inclusive collection and a more diverse audience.
We work collaboratively to improve our services and extend the benefits they offer.
We believe in the power of the collections to change lives through learning, research, discovery and improved wellbeing. We actively support participation in culture and heritage for everyone.
We commit to minimising our environmental impact, and to create a more sustainable, resilient and healthy environment for future generations.
Our strategic priorities for 2020-2025
- Priority 1: Safeguarding collections
- Priority 2: Improving access
- Priority 3: Engaging audiences
- Priority 4: Supporting learning, research and discovery
- Priority 5: Developing the organisation
How we support a successful Scotland
The preparation of the Library Plan has been informed by the Scottish Government's National Performance Framework (NPF).
The National Performance Framework was relaunched in 2018 and sets 11 national outcomes. These outcomes are designed to support delivery of the Scottish Government's Purpose, which is:
To focus on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increased wellbeing and sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
Although our work contributes to some extent to all of these outcomes, the Library is most closely aligned to five and we will monitor our performance against these. The table below shows how the Library's outcomes match to the Scottish Government's national outcomes.
Below, we outline examples of how the Library’s work feeds into the national outcomes.
We are creative and our vibrant and diverse cultures are expressed and enjoyed widely.
- Our collections help to enhance Scotland's international reputation for the quality of its literary, scientific and cultural heritage, and for treasuring this heritage.
- By collecting and recording the knowledge of Scotland we preserve the memory bank of the nation.
- The Library has the world's largest collection of Scottish Gaelic material.
- Research into family history is supported, helping many people trace their Scottish family background.
- Our exhibitions attract many international visitors, adding to their understanding of Scottish identity.
- More than 48 per cent of all respondents to the last audience survey said the Library helped them better understand Scotland’s culture and history.
We are well educated, skilled and more able to contribute to society.
- The National Library is widely acknowledged as the premier library for many of Scotland's research communities.
- We contribute to and create innovative resources for use in schools including 'Scotland on Screen' and the 'National Library Learning Zone'.
- We link with Scottish universities, colleges and schools on innovative research projects.
- More than 85 per cent of higher education students who completed the last audience survey said the Library helped advance their education.
- By supporting the knowledge economy, we contribute to a modern, successful Scotland.
We have a globally competitive, entrepreneurial, inclusive and sustainable economy.
- Our collection of business information resources is one of the largest collections of company and market data in the United Kingdom and is a key potential resource for Scotland's business community.
- We are the only National Library in the United Kingdom that provides direct access to an extensive range of market research reports, company and news data and guides to starting and running a business directly via the web, free of charge, to registered users.
- We can deal with business enquiries in person, by phone or email or via our Library online chat service.
- We have worked with collaborators to develop the Business and Intellectual Property Centre in Glasgow.
We tackle poverty by sharing opportunities, wealth and power more equally.
- We provide free access to all our collections, online and onsite.
- We continue to seek community benefits through our procurement activities. This includes fair work practices such as the Living Wage.
- We provide work experience and volunteer opportunities.
- We have an active outreach programme that works with schools, local community projects and community libraries across Scotland.
- All our educational resources link to the Curriculum for Excellence and are promoted to schools across Scotland.
We value, enjoy, protect and enhance our environment.
- We have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 69 per cent from 2008-2009 baseline levels.
- Energy consumption has been reduced by 54 per cent from 2008-2009 baseline levels.
- The percentage of waste that is recycled now exceeds 67 per cent.
- We continue to operate a sustainable procurement policy.