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Authors back campaign to Save Scotland’s School Libraries

A petition has been submitted to the Scottish Parliament urging the Scottish Government to set out a new national strategy for school libraries which recognises the vital role of high quality school libraries in supporting pupils’ literacy and research skills.  Supported by the campaign group Save Scotland’s School Libraries the petition highlights that young people in Scotland are now subject to a postcode lottery in regards to the level of school library service they receive and as a consequence pupils in Scotland’s schools are suffering educational inequality.

The group add that if local authorities continue to withdraw services it is very likely to lead to a drop in literacy rates and a widening of the attainment gap, which runs counter to Scottish Government policy. 

Leading Scottish novelists James Robertson, Christopher Brookmyre and Alan Bissett have voiced their support for the petition.  Two time Saltire Society Book of the Year Award Winner James Robertson commented:

‘Libraries in our communities and in our schools are vital signs of a civilised society. If we allow them to close or not to be staffed by professional librarians, we are sending out a message that we don’t care about our young people’s education or their future.

A school library is where all pupils, regardless of their performance in the classroom, can acquire knowledge and information independently or with the support and advice of trained library staff: a good library is a crucial part of any educational establishment. The school library is a place of both safety and adventure. It enables exploration and self-education. It opens doors into the world, and into the rest of a young person’s life.

The Scottish Government says that improving school attainment is the single most important objective in its current programme, and that literacy is central to this strategy. Cutting school library services runs completely counter to these aims. The Government and Local Authorities should be working together to ensure that school library services are enhanced and developed, not withdrawn.’

Christopher Brookmyre said“School libraries are where pupils learn a lesson for life that books are for pleasure, not just for homework.”

In addition Alan Bissett commented:

‘I'd hope all would agree that libraries provide an invaluable service to our communities, but perhaps many are not aware that there are specialist kinds of librarians. The users of school libraries, for example, have very different needs from those of public libraries.  School libraries have an integral function in any child's education and we should be respecting the skills which school librarians provide.’

Evidence on the benefits of school libraries was published earlier this year in the Standing Literacy Commission (SLC) final report on the Scottish Government’s Literacy Action Plan.

“…schools with school libraries and librarians achieved higher exam scores, leading to higher academic attainment; higher quality project work; successful curriculum and learning outcomes; more positive attitudes towards learning and increased motivation and self-esteem among pupils.”

This echoed research undertaken by the Robert Gordon University and published in the report Impact of School Libraries on Learning.

In 2015 cuts to school library services have been proposed in East Renfrewshire, South Lanarkshire, North Lanarkshire, and Falkirk Council.  Other proposals already approved include sharing librarians between schools in Glasgow, and replacing librarians in North Ayrshire, South Ayrshire and Fife with library assistants. Some schools, such as Dumfries Academy, have handed responsibility for libraries over to English teachers, and a number of councils have reduced librarians’ duties to term-time only.

The petition has been lodged in the same week that Jane Spall ,School Librarian at Aith Junior High School, Shetland has been announced as one of the shortlisted candidates for the prestigious School Librarian of the Year Award.

A spokesperson for the Save Scotland’s School Library group said:

‘We firmly believe that school libraries are unique in their ability to support teaching and learning and should be the central resource of every school, open every day and staffed by a professionally trained librarian. We believe that all learners should have equal access to a qualified school librarian.’

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