Lifeline for libraries

More than £1 million of funding allocated.

Innovative projects to reopen some of the libraries that closed during the pandemic, set up wellbeing cafes or provide home library services have received more than £1 million in funding.

The Scottish Government’s £1.25 million Public Library COVID Relief Fund will support 23 projects around the country to re-connect communities with their libraries.

Applications were made through the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) and allocations will also support reading and STEM education programmes.

While priority was given to applications which support deprived areas and communities, all library services across Scotland were invited to apply for the fund.

Culture Minister Jenny Gilruth said:

“These funding allocations will support public libraries across Scotland. Libraries that closed because of the pandemic will re-open and others will be able to widen the services that they offer their local communities.

“Libraries are so much more than a place to borrow books. This fund will see the provision of community-centred projects aimed at, among other things, reducing social isolation, promoting mental wellbeing and reducing the poverty-related attainment gap.

“This funding is part of the Government’s wider aspiration to drive a cultural recovery for our communities. I look forward to seeing how libraries use this support to benefit their local area and to working with the library sector on our future recovery plans”.

Scottish Library and Information Council Chair Ian Ruthven said:

“Public libraries are an essential part of Scotland's social fabric, supporting and inspiring people to fulfil their potential for over 150 years.

“Improving mental wellbeing, tackling social isolation and closing the digital divide are some of the key aims of public libraries. The Public Library COVID Relief Fund will allow local public libraries to reconnect with their communities and offer these much-valued services.”


The Public Library COVID Relief Fund was announced as part of the Programme for Government and all local authority library services were able to apply for funding.

The following library services have been awarded funding:

Library Service

Project Summary

Amount Funded

Aberdeen City

The project will see the library service rebuild partnerships with local schools in priority neighbourhoods, allowing children better access to books and therefore reading for pleasure. It will include a package of materials to enhance the service on offer to children including activities aimed at core skills across listening and talking, reading, writing, literacy and numeracy.



A programme of wellbeing cafes targeting social isolation and promoting mental health and wellbeing across three libraries located in the most deprived data zone in Clackmannanshire. The target audience will be identified primarily by colleagues in English as a Second Or foreign Language (ESOL) and Social Care teams. Self-referrals also welcome.


East Ayrshire

Sharing stories seeks to re-engage three specific audiences with East Ayrshire libraries who, prior to COVID, had access to specific sessions and additional support: Additional Support Needs (ASN) Schools, Local Care homes and ESOL families.


East Dunbartonshire

The project will invest in a branded electric van with a custom-specification to allow for outreach work, including family learning activities designed to foster a love of reading. It will focus on the Twechar and Hillhead areas but will allow for a broader outreach offer to take the library offer out into the community.


East Renfrewshire

A library project officer will be appointed to focus on outreach work in the Barrhead area in partnership with key stakeholders and will seek to re-engage the community with the library by responding to key COVID recovery themes with a focus on attainment.



A co-creation project with young adults in collaboration with a number of key stakeholders. Activities will focus on STEM and digital projects but will be driven by the young people themselves within the 20% most deprived Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) areas.



The Libraries for Wellbeing project will work in partnership primarily with Falkirk’s Mental Health Association (FDAMH) who will provide a range of training around mental health for all library  staff members and provide referrals for a Words for Wellbeing programme.



This project seeks to work with three distinct groups: older men, teen parents and lapsed users in Fife's 10-20% highest SIMD areas.



Support to reopen the five Glasgow libraries that are currently closed (Maryhill, Whiteinch, GoMA, Couper Institute, Barmulloch) and to increase opening hours at other libraries across the city.



Targeted early years literacy project working with 40 families from Glasgow’s East End ‘literacy hotspot’, where 49% of children live in poverty.



A targeted home library service, operating from six key libraries, will work closely with referral partners  including Social Work, GPs and Glasgow City Health and Social Care partnership.


High Life Highland

A targeted reader redevelopment project in Easter Ross with a programme of outreach work in deprived communities with local nurseries, schools and care homes.



Building on the success of their Bibliotherapy work to date, this project will extend the Words for Wellbeing offer and will work closely with partners in the Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) and Third sector organisations in Mayfield, Easthouses and Woodburn. The Reading Aloud strand will be aimed at people with dementia and their carers and the Words for Wellbeing sessions will focus on people living with long-term health conditions.



Digital Explorers Club is an after school STEM club with an accompanying  learning and support programme for parents/guardians/family members. The library service will work with Education Department to identify families in need and those that are struggling to digitally connect with schools particularly in the Seafield and New Elgin Primary catchment areas as well as third sector organisations such as Moray Women’s Aid and Quarriers to help identify suitable families that would benefit from this opportunity.


North Ayrshire

A programme of wellbeing events targeting social isolation and promoting mental health and wellbeing. Working with partners in community arts and community learning and development, this projects seeks to reconnect communities with their library service and rebuild confidence.


Orkney (funded by SLIC WiFi fund)

An intergenerational VR project that will work with partners including Age Scotland, Orkney Dementia Hub and local schools to offer a series of virtual interactions to tackle social isolation and explore a variety of themes.



A multi-agency approach that will use social prescribing pathways to identify those most at risk of social isolation, loneliness and/or digital exclusion across a number of deprived localities. A timetable of cultural activities will tie into wider cultural regeneration and encourage people back to in person events with a view to creating social connections and stimulating mental health and wellbeing.


Shetland  (funded by SLIC WiFi fund)

This project will enable the purchase of a set of tablets for loan as well as laptops and wireless printers for two community libraries in schools, where access and networking issues have made it difficult to establish public internet access up to now. The two libraries in Unst and Yell serve the communities farthest from Lerwick where people cannot easily travel for internet access.


South Lanarkshire

A targeted family learning project which will work closely with one early learning centre and three partner nurseries in the Springhall Cathkin area with a focus on early literacy activities and family support.



An after school digital STEM club targeting senior primary school children in former mining villages Fallin, Cowie and Plean, offering a wide range of digital activities. The library service will work closely with education to identify those children and families who may have fallen behind as a result of school closures and digital poverty.


West Dunbartonshire

A targeted programme of learning and wellbeing events for children and young people and their families living in the three most deprived communities in West Dunbartonshire. Activities will focus on literacy, numeracy, art and STEM subjects to encourage a reconnection with learning and will be provided in partnership with external subject experts and internal West Dunbartonshire Council colleagues.


West Lothian

A programme of cultural activity led by a Library Community Development Officer to support cultural regeneration and encourage community engagement in the 5% most disadvantaged SIMD areas.


Western Isles

A focus on strengthening the service as a whole and improving access for the community by investing in additional staff hours to allow the service to extend the opening hours at the main library in Stornoway to pre-COVID access. To further support capacity, introduce cost-effective self-service terminals at each community library. These will facilitate access and free up staff further to provide more support and services to library users. A pop-up library will be established in Northbay, Barra to extend reach of the library to the local community. Finally, work will be undertaken to develop the library website and integrated catalogue to facilitate access to the e-library services.      


 * SLIC are funding the Orkney and Shetland services applications through their existing Wi-Fi Fund which is separate from the Public Library COVID Relief Fund.  


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