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. 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 currently undertaking a significant programme of digitising its collections (410,000 items in 2010-11).
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 the collections
Making the collections available to the public and to people wishing to carry out study and research
Exhibiting and interpreting objects in the collection
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.