In the past fifty years, the number of libraries in Glasgow (thirty-two plus the Mitchell Library, the largest civic reference library in Europe) remained static, while that of museums increased substantially, along with visitor numbers. The opening of the Museum of Transport (1963, moved in 1988), the Burrell Collection (1983), the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art (1993) and the Gallery of Modern Art (1996) all reflected a long tradition of the city using culture to establish a competitive advantage. Driven by the painful transition from manufacturing to services, these changes were controversial, especially during Glasgow's year as European City of Culture (1990). Today significant reinvestment is enabling museums to recover from budget cuts following local government reorganisation in 1996 and there is more of a consensus about museums' contribution to the city's leisure, educational life and status as the third most visited tourist city in the United Kingdom.
Glasgow Libraries have played a huge part in the autodidactic tradition in Glasgow with many writers, trade union leaders and politicians acknowledging free access to books as key influences in their development. By the late 1990s libraries were in decline having failed to keep up with new information media and higher public expectations. A programme of renewal, in partnership with Scottish Enterprise Glasgow, is bringing libraries into the media age while plans to develop the immense resources of the Mitchell Library are well advanced. Glasgow is making a strong case to the Scottish Executive for its museums as well as the Mitchell Library to be recognised, and supported financially, as national institutions.
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