UPDATE: Herts residents and workers can sign an e-petition on the school libraries issue here.
The latest cut to library services in Hertfordshire is likely to be the closure of the schools library service – the body that works to support teachers promoting reading for pleasure in schools.
A national campaign to shout about school libraries is running
The move comes in the midst of SHOUTABOUT, a national campaign to promote the work of school libraries and to have their provision made accountable as a regular part of school inspections.
It also follows a reduction in opening hours of a third in public libraries this year, significant cuts to mobile library services and the dismantling of central reference services and resources. The council is also considering ways to help community groups become more involved in the running of libraries.
The possible closure of the service is due to be discussed at the Hertfordshire Local and Libraries Panel meeting at County Hall tomorrow. Get more information here.
A report to the meeting explains how the SLS must cover its costs by trading its services to schools – but fewer schools are currently buying in, with cost seen as a major factor behind this.
Education funding that used to pay some of the service’s costs is also likely to be unavailable in the future, leading to a loss of income and the possibility of a deficit with no funding available to cover it.
As a result the SLS could cease trading when its current contracts expire on March 31 next year, leading to the redeployment of 12 staff members.
However, the report also stresses the importance of the service in supporting teachers with specialist knowledge that helps the county’s schoolchildren read for pleasure, develop information literacy skills and learn research skills.
It satys: “There is no capacity for the public library service to fill any void caused by the closure of the Schools Library Service.”
An equalities assessment has also identified potential problems with access to foreign-language resources and access to materials for children with visual impairments.
In October this year concern about schools library provision nationwide led a group of organisations including the School Libraries Association (SLA) and national librarians’ body CILIP to launch a campaign on the issue.
It aims to boost the profile of school libraries, ensure that every school in the UK has access to library expertise and make library provision part of OFSTED inspections.
Speaking at its launch Gillian Harris, Chair of the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL), said: “Teachers need a wide range of stimulating, up-to-date and relevant learning resources to deliver an exciting and vibrant curriculum.
“Schools Library Services are an amazing cost-effective way for schools to make sure children of all abilities have the best-quality materials in the classroom to inspire their learning.
“Add to this the professional support, advice and books Schools Library Services can provide to those wanting to build a reading culture and an excellent library, then they should be at the top of every school’s list to buy in.”