Novelists back fight to keep school libraries open
Campaigners say “postcode lottery” provision means pupils suffer educational inequality.
The Save Scotland’s School Libraries (SSSL) campaign group yesterday launched a petition to the Scottish Parliament, which will run until 16 October, urging the Scottish Government to set out a new national strategy for school libraries.
Crime writers Ian Rankin, Peter May and Val McDermid were among the first to sign the petition.
Concerns have been raised over proposals to cut school library services in East Renfrewshire, South Lanarkshire, North Lanarkshire and Falkirk. Proposals already approved include sharing librarians between schools in Glasgow and replacing librarians in North Ayrshire, South Ayrshire and Fife with library assistants.
James Robertson, two-time winner of the Saltire Society Book of the Year Award, said: “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 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and local authorities should be working together to ensure that school library services are enhanced and developed, not withdrawn.” Alan Bissett said: “School libraries have an integral function in any child’s education and we should be respecting the skills school librarians provide.”
Christopher Brookmyre added: “School libraries are where pupils learn a lesson for life that books are for pleasure, not just for homework.”
Duncan Wright, a school librarian and SSSL spokesman, said: “We hope to be called by the petitions committee so that we can get a dialogue going.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We recently committed £800,000 to develop pilot projects in every local authority area so children automatically become library members. As part of this scheme libraries will work with schools and communities to promote their services.
“This will not take away from the value of school libraries but instead provide children across the country, including those from deprived and remote areas, with even more access to books and learning materials, to make sure that every child has the opportunity to get excited about reading.”