SLA launches report on the impact of Covid-19 on school libraries and staff :: NEWS

SLA launches report on the impact of Covid-19 on school libraries and staff

10 March 2022 Share

Today we are pleased to announce the publication of a new report into the impact of COVID-19 on UK school libraries and their staff.

Organised by the SLA, written by Emily Davison-Cripps and generously funded by the 2020 SLA Patrons' Appeal, School Libraries in Lockdown examines the role of school libraries before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, at a point when everything was changing and when schools, leadership, and the government were facing exceptional challenges.? 

The role of school libraries is examined through research conducted by the SLA, including the analysis of hundreds of survey responses spanning two years, interviews with school library staff and statements from senior leaders. 

Some key findings of the report include: 

  • School library staff found themselves in a wide range of situations; the lockdown exacerbated pre-existing conditions. 
  • The impacts of the pandemic were wide ranging, impacting staff and pupils’ attainment and wellbeing. In some cases, budgets were revoked while in others additional funding was provided. 
  • Although school library staff are often used to working independently, isolation was a significant risk during this time. 
  • Schools where the role (or potential role) of library staff was misunderstood or undervalued were less likely to utilise them during this time. 
  • The impact on the mental wellbeing of school library staff was significant. 

The report aims not to assign blame, but rather to help the sector reflect and learn so that positive steps can be taken to secure the best possible future for school libraries.

The report concludes with recommendations for sector bodies, school library staff and senior leaders that will help make this happen, which can be summarised into three key priorities: 

  1. Strong sector bodies for school librarianship should be visible throughout the educational landscape. 
  2. School library staff need to be visible and work towards the aims of their school. 
  3. Senior school leaders need to develop an improved understanding of the role of their school library and how it supports the school’s aims. 

Alison Tarrant, SLA CEO says: “This report is hard to read at times, and my heart goes out to all those working in schools during this time – all of your efforts are appreciated and treasured by many. This report also represents a challenge – to school library staff, to the SLA and those in working within the school library sector, and to other educationalists to work on improving the relationship, understanding and communication between teaching staff and their library colleagues. This is something to which the SLA is wholly committed, and I look forward to working with colleagues from across the educational landscape to make this a reality.” 

Richard Gerver, SLA President says: “If the last couple of years have taught us anything, it is the vital importance of collaboration, communication and mutual support. This report highlights some significant challenges and some strong ideas for how we move forward to best ensure that our school libraries don’t just survive but thrive and, safeguard the very best for our children; young people who have been deprived of so much, including the wonderful resources in a great library. What is clear is that there is a job to do and if we commit to communicating the importance of what we do so that we can catalyse meaningful collaboration and support, we can and will meet the challenges we face.” 

Our SLA Patrons’ Appeal was launched in November 2020 with the aim of raising funds to commission research into the impact of the first national lockdown on school libraries. Despite being a challenging time for all as we continued to navigate through the pandemic, we believed there were some important lessons to be learnt which could move the sector forwards. The appeal closed in December 2020 and raised just over £1500. 

We would like to sincerely thank everyone who generously donated and allowed this report to be possible. 

For more information and to download the report, please visit: