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National Library Bill published

27/10/2011

Plans that modernise for the 21st century the functions of 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."

The National Library of Scotland Bill will update legislation established in 1925. The Bill will allow the National Library Scotland (NLS) to:

  • preserve, conserve and develop its collections
  • improve accessibility for study and research
  • exhibit objects to visitors and online
  • promote collaboration and shared good practice amongst the library community

The Bill will also reduce the size of the NLS Board, remove reserved places and ensure all appointments are made by Scottish Ministers in line with current practice for public appointments.

A public consultation into the proposed Bill took place between March and June 2010 and received broad support.

NLS plays a key role in supporting education, research, business and innovation and in enhancing the reputation of Scotland as a country with a rich cultural heritage and a vibrant future. Through its collections, the Library charts the global and historical influence of Scots at home and abroad, while also recording and reflecting the ideas and cultures of the world. The Library exists to advance universal access to knowledge about Scotland and in Scotland. See www.nls.uk for more information

NLS is at the forefront of innovation in making more of its collections available online. Recent developments include the Learning Zone which gives schools across Scotland online access to a wealth of new learning materials from the Library's huge bank of knowledge. This is just one of the many ways in which the Library is contributing towards a better educated, more skilled and more successful Scotland.

The Library houses over 14 million printed items including two million maps and 300,000 items of sheet music. There are 1,200 business directories, 3,000 market research reports, over 20,000 business databases, two million government publications, 20,000 pre-1900 photographs, 30,000 films and innumerable fanzines, posters, DVDs, e-journals and microform. It has an annual budget of £14.8m and employs 308 staff.

The Library's collections are of world class significance and used by people of all ages from all over Scotland and overseas. They include the John Murray Archive, which contains some 250,000 items from some of the greatest writers, politicians, explorers and scientists of the late 18th to the mid 20th centuries, such as Charles Darwin, Lord Byron, Jane Austen, Sir Walter Scott and David Livingstone. In 2012 the Library will host a major exhibition on Scotland at the Movies and over the winter it will be exploring Shakespeare's place in Scotland's literary culture.

The Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) was established in 1991 as the independent advisory body to the Scottish Government and Scottish ministers on library and information services. It aims to improve coordination between libraries, conduct research and promote innovation as well as providing information, education and advice. The annual £500,000 Public Library Quality Improvement Fund is open to local authorities and includes support for improving digital facilities.