NO matter where I go in the world, there is one place guaranteed to bring comfort, friendship and happiness.

Libraries are the most important part of town centres and also the most under appreciated.

I'm very old fashioned and I like my libraries to be for books.

But, of course, they are for books and much more. You can find literacy and numeracy classes, English as an Additional Language courses, computer skills classes and more.

They are there for computer access and local councillors' surgeries, benefits advice and support for people with cancer.

We fully recognise how vital reading is to early development so we have Book Bug and Bounce and Rhyme.

Yet libraries are always the first to go when public purse strings are tight.

Glasgow Life has taken a severe financial hit during the covid-19 crisis, losing £12 million of income from memberships and ticket sales so far and predicting the further loss of tens of millions by the end of the financial year next April.

In the staged reopening of its venues. the failure to provide dates for Govanhill, Langside and Pollokshields libraries has been a real shock to the South Side.

In Govanhill, particularly, the community is one of the most deprived in Scotland and the library is a vital hub.

Losing it would be unbearable. While there's no definite threat to its future, cuts will have to be made and so it's worth keeping a close eye on the plans for all three venues - not just for those, like me, who love libraries, but for anyone with a vested interest in improving the area they live in.

Which is to say, absolutely everyone.

Speaking of the South Side, and of reading, with all that might currently divide us, you'd think the First Minister recommending her favourite books might slip down to the section of the list sub-headed 'inconsequential' but, sadly, no.

Nicola Sturgeon, famously a bookworm, routinely talks on Twitter about reading. Each time she does so you'd be forgiven for thinking she'd suggested book burning.

She clearly has a real love of reading, posting a summer and winter reading list each year. She's also good at giving a boost to new Scottish authors.

It's hard to understand why a vocal love of books is taken to be a bad thing but the complaints are always fairly uniform: haven't you got anything better to do? Why don't you spend less time reading and more time running the country?

There is a perception - shown through the indignation expressed towards a bookish First Minister - that reading is lazy. How can anything done silently sitting down be productive.

Anything useful I have ever learned has come from a novel. Empathy, understanding and insight into worlds other than your own lie there on the pages for the taking. If there were any skills we'd want politicians to be open to, surely we would want these.

The act of reading too, is vital for rest, recuperation and wellbeing. Of course running the country is a full time job but even full time employees need a bit of a break now and then. I'd rather have a politician who picked up the latest Curtis Sittenfeld in their downtime than used breaks to beget illicit children.

Sturgeon has said that reading helps her to relax and isn't that vital in a leader? Or are people seriously suggesting that it's preferable those in charge push themselves to breaking point?

For those who criticise Sturgeon for her book reading, are their criticisms equal? Do they also chide Boris Johnson for the performative way he shows off his book learning? The Prime Minister is well kent for being passionate about the classics. We know this because he tells us, peppering his speeches with unnecessary classical references.

I suppose he thinks it gives him a bit of panache, to be trotting out the Greek. The study of classics is a useful intellectual resource but Johnson uses it to make himself look and, I imagine, feel superior.

I'd rather have a reading list of novels I might actually enjoy from someone possessed of a rich hinterland of stories than be gently befuddled by a line from Homer uttered by a man trying to make himself look statesmanlike while having the dignity of a stuffed badger.

That's a divide between those who read for pleasure and those who quote their reading to show off. But reading is not about impressing others with what you know, it's about finding common ground about what you love - and hate.

So that takes us back to libraries. We must not ever allow the act of reading to become devalued. Books are a friend in lonely times, a salve in hard times and a route to other worlds.

Yet we seem to forget that reading is a vital, life-long habit.

Lambast the First Minister for her political failings, absolutely. But not for her role as a champion of bookworms.