SBC’s school library changes condemned

Eyemouth HS library
Eyemouth HS library

Professional bodies representing Scotland’s librarians have lined up to condemn Scottish Borders Council’s proposals to replace school librarians with pupils.

Several librarians lost their jobs last year, with more junior staff taking over, and now staff at Galashiels Academy, Peebles High School and Kelso High School can expect to see pupils and volunteers working alongside them. Scottish Borders Council is also planning to introduce that money-saving measure at the region’s other six secondary schools.

After hearing the concerns of members, parents, teachers and partners, the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS) has penned an open letter to Scottish Borders Council’s chief executive Tracey Logan which reads: “Secondary school pupils should have access to a school library and be guided by a standard of excellence set by classroom teachers in collaboration with a school librarian who understands pedagogy and is trained in managing resources to support the curriculum, literacy and reader development.

“We therefore seek more information on how this proposal will support raising attainment in schools.”

Duncan Wright, chair of CILIPS’s trustees’ board, said: “The decision by Scottish Borders Council to replace school library staff with pupil volunteers is exceptionally disappointing and highlights a complete lack of understanding of the role of the school librarian by council officials.  

“Indeed, with a national strategy for school libraries in Scotland due to be launched in the autumn it would appear no research has been done by council officials on the important role national government places on the role of the school library.”

The proposals have also been condemned by the Educational Institute of Scotland, Connect (formerly the Scottish Parent Teacher Council), the Scottish Book Trust, Literature Alliance and public-sector union Unison.

A spokesperson for Unison said: “School librarians’ skills are needed now more than ever. The internet means that there is no shortage of sources of information. The more important skill is now understanding and evaluating these sources. Pupils need to learn how to sort out fact from fake.

“Librarians teach research skills, understanding and organising information. This decision will widen the attainment gap when councils are supposed to be focusing on closing it.”

A council spokesperson said: “There are opportunities for senior pupils to gain qualifications and training in leadership and other areas through taking on roles in school libraries and supporting their peers.”

“This is operating successfully elsewhere and is also being explored as part of the pilot scheme.”