The Scottish Government will bring forward a National Library of Scotland (NLS) Bill to modernise governance arrangements which were established in 1925, enabling the NLS to update and develop its services and functions for the 21st century and respond to the changing needs of its customers.
NLS is Scotland's only legal deposit library and can claim copies of anything published in the UK and Ireland. A national resource and one of the major research libraries in Europe, it offers free access to a collection of over 14 million items which include rare and valuable items such as the last letter written by Mary Queen of Scots and the first printed book, the Gutenberg Bible of 1455. Material is held in over 490 languages.
NLS brings to life Scotland's history and culture. There are 70,000 visits per year to the reading room and around 2.5 million calls on the digital library. NLS is at the forefront of innovation in making more of its collections available online. More than 1.5 million manuscripts, letters, books, newspapers, and market research reports can now be accessed remotely.
The Bill will define the functions of NLS and update its powers in line with those of modern public bodies. The National Library of Scotland Act of 1925 did not specifically provide for the Board's functions, which have evolved over time.
The functions will reflect the role of NLS in relation to:
- Preserving, conserving and developing its collections
- Making the collections accessible to the public and to persons wishing to carry out study and research
- Exhibiting and interpreting objects in the collections
- Promoting collaboration and shared practice amongst the library community
The Bill will also reduce the size of the Board, remove reserved places and ensure all appointments are made by Scottish Ministers based on merit and selection. This will bring NLS into line with current public appointments practice following the Nolan Principles.
A public consultation carried out between March and June 2010 showed broad support for the Government's proposals. Respondents recognised that governance reform is required to allow NLS to fulfil its organisational ambitions.