School libraries on “edge of a cliff” warns private school library head

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THE librarian at one of Scotland’s top private colleges has warned that school library facilities are “standing on the edge of a cliff”.

Duncan Wright, the librarian of £20,000-a-year Stewart’s Melville College in Edinburgh, has started a Facebook campaign page dedicated to saving school libraries.

The page highlights a crisis in the library profession as cash-strapped councils axe posts to save money.

Mr Wright and teaching unions say the move fails to recognise “the importance of the school library in developing lifelong learning skills in our children and young people.”

School library services appear to present a “soft target” to councils desperate to save cash. East Renfrewshire hopes to save £131,000 replacing school librarians with senior pupils and self-service machines.

Mr Wright’s page, called Save Scotland’s School Libraries, highlights cutbacks in school library provision.

Mr Wright told an education magazine: “The school library service in Scotland is currently standing on the edge of a cliff.

“We believe that access to quality school library provision, including a specialist school librarian, supports children and young people’s learning and achievement across the curriculum.

“We encourage HM Inspectors to reflect on the impact of the school library during their inspection and encourage the Scottish Parliament and local authorities to recognise the importance of the school library in developing lifelong learning skills in our children and young people,” he added.

He said that East Renfrewshire’s decision to replace professional librarians trained to degree level with pupils and service points was “particularly galling”.

His Facebook page contains links to noted author Neil Gaiman speaking about his love of the school library as a “safe place… without bullies”.

He also links to an article by comedian Russell Brand on how schools without libraries are a “disgrace”.

It emerged earlier this year that East Renfrewshire hopes to save around £131,000 by removing school librarians and replacing them with senior pupils and self-service machines.

Numerous schools already share resources – with five librarians covering nine schools in East Ayrshire and Renfrewshire has seven working across 11 schools.

Falkirk council proposes to “stop the school library service” that supports 13 staff – to save £325,000 by shifting management responsibility to secondary schools.

Other proposals include sharing librarians between schools in Glasgow and replacing professional librarians in North, South Ayreshire and Fife with library assistants.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union said: “School librarians are graduate professionals and often the linchpins of school literacy programs, which may grind to a halt when they are removed.”

A spokeswoman from East Renfrewshire Council said: “We are consulting fully with communities in East Renfrewshire and no decision will be taken until February.

“Any reduction in staff will be managed carefully over a period of time and would involve between eight and nine full-time equivalent posts, which we should be able to manage through natural turnover, management of vacancies and voluntary redundancy.

“No decision has been taken as yet and we would encourage local residents, communities and staff to make their views known over the next few weeks.”

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