CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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“Folly of the highest order”

Category: News

This was the reaction of Larry Flanagan, General Secretary of the Education Institute of Scotland, to a newspaper report that Borders Council is to replace school librarians with pupils.

After the report appeared, CILIPS was inundated with expressions of concern about the proposal from members of the library and teaching professions as well as parent and others involved in supporting literature and learning in schools across Scotland.

CILIP in Scotland Trustee Board Chair, Duncan Wright, commented

“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, backed by the Cabinet Secretary for Education John Swinney, 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 and school libraries.

Whilst I agree that the nature of how pupils study and access information is changing this does not equate to role of the school librarian becoming redundant.  The school librarian is able to inform, teach and guide pupils through the many digital solutions available in their quest for information. Without the presence of staff within the library pupils will be left to flounder, without guidance, in the digital landscape that is prevalent in so many areas of our life.  Questions must be asked why Scottish Borders Council feels pupils within their schools should not be offered the same help, support and guidance as pupils elsewhere in Scotland.”

Others took to Twitter to express their feelings about the proposal. CILIPS Past President, Liz McGettigan stated “I  am absolutely appalled to read this! Dressing up cuts as “leadership training”

CILIP in Scotland has written an open letter  to the Chief Executive of Borders Council and we’re reproducing below, some of the statements we’ve received in reaction to the Borders Council proposal.

Larry Flanagan, General Secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)

“School librarians are a critical part of any school’s professional staff. In an era where the school library is often a hub of learning across the curriculum, the professional skill set of highly qualified school librarians is paramount in supporting  resource based learning, independent study and research, and in whole school promotion of literacy.  Seeking to replace such staff with the unpaid labour of pupils is folly of the highest order”.

Eileen Prior, Executive Director of Connect (formerly known as Scottish Parent Teacher Council)

“The cuts to education services for our young people across the country is a significant issue for parents. Librarians are trained professionals who have a particular skill set, so parents are rightly concerned that their secondary school youngsters are being expected to step into a role they have no training for. Librarians do not just open the library door and check out books: they have the knowledge and skill to support learners in their study and research, and to support literacy skills. Not only does this approach remove that support for school pupils, it also places an unrealistic expectation on fellow pupils.”

Marc Lambert, CEO, Scottish Book Trust

“SBT shares CILIPS’ concerns about the replacement of qualified school librarians by pupils in the Scottish Borders. While we understand the financial pressures councils are under, we can only see this deeply misguided idea as a false economy, and the first step in getting rid of school libraries altogether. It is important for everyone involved to acknowledge facts backed by rigorous evidence – that a school librarian plays a central role in ensuring the best educational outcomes for pupils, and that nothing can replace the expertise they represent, with all the proven benefits that come from their professional knowledge, and the care and attention with which it is delivered. Given this well known evidential base, asking pupils to step in to replace the services of such a professional seems more desperate than sensible.”

Peggy Hughes, Chair of Literature Alliance, Scotland

“Trained school librarians are an essential part of a modern school, making a positive impact on education by improving literacy in all subjects and helping to raise attainment across the curriculum. They transform the school library into a place of learning and, importantly, they help direct pupils with their own learning, research, and reading, which brings with it important health benefits.

Depriving the students of the Scottish Borders of their professional school librarians acts directly against giving them equal opportunities and equal rights. We urge Scottish Borders Council to rescind this decision, which will surely have a negative impact on the future life chances of the young people in their area.”

Kay Sillars, UNISON spokesperson

“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.

This decision will prevent pupils from reaching their full potential. Librarians have professional skills that support children of all abilities to learn. This is not just about finding a book on a shelf, 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”