The Tinder Foundation claims community services should be seen as more important than book lending
Libraries that don’t fill the role of community hubs should be closed, according to a digital inclusion charity.
The Tinder Foundation argued that efforts to protect all libraries should be refocused to save those that can “engage and empower” their local communities.
Services such as digital skills training, jobs clubs, community workshops and school programmes should be seen as more important than book lending, the charity said.
Helen Milner, the foundation’s chief executive, said: “Knowledge is no longer just found in books. Increasingly, knowledge, education, history, news and even fiction, are found online.
To be community hubs, libraries need to be about social inclusion before books
“Books are not synonymous with knowledge, and they are certainly not synonymous with community. To be community hubs, libraries need to be about social inclusion before books. And digital inclusion is part of that picture. “
Ms Milner highlighted ways in which the best libraries supported the needs of their communities through collaborating with other agencies.
“They’re working closely with Jobcentres, Citizens Advice Bureaux, GPs, social and sheltered housing organisations, faith groups, community centres and charities,” she said.
“These are the community hubs. Online, offline, on the ground, in real life. Other libraries are not, and it’s time we faced that fact.”
Despite figures showing 56 Scottish libraries have closed since 2010, Ms Milner said she was “fed up” the sector had been given a “free pass” when other community hubs are also faced with closures.
“I love libraries,” she added.
“But I love them when they’re fulfilling their potential. When they are not, I believe they are bringing the institution down. I believe they are letting local people down.”
The Tinder Foundation is now appealing to library chiefs to work with the charity and improve the services they offer to their communities.
Ms Milner concluded: “I believe we can help libraries be better. I believe we can make libraries so strong, so useful, and so essential that no one in their right mind would ever close another one.
“But we won’t do that by pretending all libraries are already brilliant, just by virtue of being libraries.”