Aberdeenshire Council is to spend almost £300,000 on new materials to help people of all ages develop a love of reading.
The investment has been praised by community leaders and a national charity, who say the new lockdown means there “has never been a better time” to pick up a book.
The local authority has awarded a trio of new contracts, covering large print and audiobooks to make reading accessible for young and older people.
Over 2019 and 2020, more than 30,000 audiobooks were checked out at libraries across Aberdeenshire.
And, while libraries were closed during the initial coronavirus lockdown, The P&J revealed works by Ian Rankin and David Walliams were among the most popular titles.
The area’s 40 permanent and mobile libraries are operated by the council’s sports and culture body Live Life Aberdeenshire.
Anne Stirling, chairwoman of the local authority’s communities committee, said: “Live Life Aberdeenshire’s Library Service is a very important resource.
“It is fantastic audiobooks and large print material are being used to support health and wellbeing in care homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
“There is also a wealth of online audio and large print reading material that is available at a click of a button on the library service page of the Live Life Aberdeenshire website.”
‘Never been a better time’ for reading
And Gillian Owen, chairwoman of the education and children’s services committee, said the benefits to young people of picking up a book are “well acknowledged”.
“Not only is it fun but reading improves literacy skills,” she said.
“We are fortunate that we live in a world where technology is used to create audiobooks and books in large print which mean children and young people with a variety of disabilities can enjoy reading books in a way they can take in the information that is best for them.
“Given the current lockdown requiring us to stay at home where possible, there has never been a better time to pick up a book.”
Marc Lambert, the chief executive of national charity Scottish Book Trust, welcomed the move.
A survey compiled by the organisation found 98% of people felt reading supports their wellbeing, with 97% saying they use it to relax.
Additionally, 92% said it was a good method of easing stresses and anxiety.
During the initial lockdown, the charity found the percentage of people reading on a daily basis jumped from 55% to 72%, with daily audiobook usage tripling to 12%.
Mr Lambert said: “We know that access to books and reading has a hugely positive impact on people’s wellbeing and mental health as well as reducing feelings of isolation, and in our current situation this has never been more important.
“Libraries sit at the heart of communities and understand the needs of their local communities.
“Libraries provide a vital service and it’s great to see investment being made to increase their offer with a wider selection of books, in a range of formats, for all members of their community.”
In September, The Press And Journal revealed the north-east’s most-popular lockdown library books.
The First Hippo On The Moon by David Walliams and In A House Of Lies by Ian Rankin topped the children’s and adults’ audiobook charts, respectively.
Jeremiah’s Bell by Denzil Meyrick and Janey Godley’s Handstands In The Dark were the most-read fiction and non-fiction titles.
In Aberdeen, readers flocked to the likes of Way Of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry, JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Nine Perfect Strangers by Lianne Moriarty.