CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Libraries are a crossroads for rights’ awareness

Category: Inspiration for the Nation 2016

Guest Blog by Tam Baillie, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, as part of the ‘Scotland’s Libraries: Inspiration for the Nation’ Campaign. 

Ensuring that children and young people know and understand their rights is a critical part of my activity, and the kind of learning networks and community focus that Scotland’s libraries provide are integral to raising awareness and understanding of children’s rights.

Libraries are a crossroads for rights’ awareness. Whether it is the right to education, the right to freedom of thought, or the right to use your own language and express your culture, in Scotland we use the library network as a key provider of resources to help these things happen.

School libraries in particular can be a welcoming space, a gateway to wider knowledge and better understanding. Their ability to provide information without discrimination and to support learning fits into a rights-led approach to education.

As austerity bites deeper, I have argued that children and young people are being disproportionately affected. Removing school libraries or enforcing joint-sharing is one such area. Local authorities are making decisions out of hard economic necessity but I also believe that they are ignoring another right as they do so, in not fully exploring the views of the young people affected.

Removing library services reduces access to educational materials that are crucial to learning, which cannot adequately be countered elsewhere. It is wrong to assume that there are other easy means to access books and information, for that overlooks what is special about libraries, namely a very human combination of free resources, professional guidance and a safe space to learn, think and just be.

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