The idea that the start of a new life should be marked in a library blows my mind - Catherine Salmond

It is quite something to think of a bell going off in a public library every time a baby is born. How beautiful is that?

The idea that the start of a new life - and the love and celebration that comes with it - should be marked in a library blows my mind.

The gesture sums up everything libraries should stand for: giving anyone who wants it access to learn about humankind, to celebrate and be critical.

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So, the idea that one day, hopefully not too many weeks or months down the line, that baby whom the bell rang for may be brought into one of these amazing places, to start their own educational journey, is most fitting.

Dani Garavelli writes today on this, exploring how Scandinavian countries put libraries at the heart of society.

"Whenever a baby is born in the maternity hospital in Aarhus, Denmark, his or her mother will be asked to push a button," she writes.

"This button sounds the world's biggest tubular bell in the city’s state-of-the-art Dokk1 library, heralding the new arrival."

She continues: "The ringing of the bell also means those born in Aarhus are connected to the library from the moment they take their first breath. That seems hugely symbolic in a city - and indeed country - in which libraries are so bound up with the idea of citizenship and democracy."

Scotland on Sunday editor, Catherine Salmond. Picture: Lisa Ferguson/JPIMediaScotland on Sunday editor, Catherine Salmond. Picture: Lisa Ferguson/JPIMedia
Scotland on Sunday editor, Catherine Salmond. Picture: Lisa Ferguson/JPIMedia

On Tuesday, here in Scotland, the government pledged £1.25million in a Public Libraries Covid Recovery Fund to support libraries in re-opening after the pandemic forced many to close.

The money will also be used to extend opening hours, or to fund projects around digital inclusion, mental health and wellbeing.

It is money desperately needed, and while many people have been rightly critical of how far the amount can be spread, we must acknowledge it is at least a small step in the right direction.

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As Garavelli explains though, 61 of Scotland’s 480 libraries are still closed indefinitely, months after Covid restrictions were lifted.

The Couper Institute Library, in Glasgow, needs £400,000 alone to be up and running, so we have a long way to go to if Scotland is ever going to be able to be able to boast about its commitment in a truly invested library network.

Scotland on Sunday is determined to keep shouting about this – we will not go quiet - today adding the powerful voice of literary giant Alexander McCall Smith to our campaign who stresses:

“Libraries are one of our greatest public goods – on a par with our hospitals and schools.”

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