Helping homeless and lonely over the festive period.
People who are homeless or unable to spend Christmas with family and friends are being welcomed to Rutherglen Library.
Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop visited the library in South Lanarkshire as staff prepared to open for a festive film screening to bring people together.
They are volunteering their time from 11am-2pm for those who want to see a friendly face on December 25 – including people dealing with homelessness and social isolation.
Ahead of the Christmas opening, Ms Hyslop met 62-year-old Elaine Tait who visits the library three times a day to use the WiFi or meet up with friends. She revealed how the two days the library previously closed over the festive season felt like a “very long time”.
Ms Hyslop said:
“Rutherglen Library fulfils a need in the community, and this does not go away during the festive period. I commend staff who are willing to take time out of their holiday to make this Christmas a happy one for others.
“Libraries are at the heart of our communities, welcoming people in and serving a wider social purpose. The Scottish Government places great importance on them to empower, to tackle inequality, and to reduce isolation.
“The library is now seen as the community ‘living room’ of the modern town.”
Leader of South Lanarkshire Council, Councillor John Ross, said: “I have to pay tremendous credit to the staff, who give up their own time to ensure people are not isolated over the Christmas period.
“This will be the second time they have opened on Christmas Day, and I know last year more than 40 people visited.
“Everyone is welcome, you don’t need to let anyone know your reason for coming along other than to share a community experience with other people on a day which can be very lonely for some individuals.”
Rutherglen Library is the second busiest library in South Lanarkshire, with 154,000 visitors in 2018/19. It has an active IT learning centre with four Chromeboxes and ten computers with Office applications, and scanning facilities. The library offers free internet and WiFi, and also has a Heritage Centre where local and family history can be researched.
Ambition and Opportunity, Scotland’s national public library strategy, shows there were 28 million visits to libraries in Scotland in 2013/14. The latest audit figures show that visitor numbers have increased, with over 43 million visits to libraries in Scotland in 2017/18.
Since 2014, the Scottish Government has invested more than £5 million to re-invigorate the role of public libraries, supporting local and national activity to make them community hubs, providing services like WiFi, access to health information, supporting people with dementia and tackling social isolation and loneliness.
The Public Library Improvement Fund (PLIF) supports creative and innovative library projects throughout Scotland, and is administered by the Scottish Library and Information Council on behalf of the Scottish Government.
A Connected Scotland, the national strategy for tackling social isolation, was published in December 2018.
In the Scottish Household Survey 2018, 21% of people across Scotland said they experienced feelings of loneliness ‘in the last week’ and this proportion was higher for people aged 75 and over (25%).
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