This letter has been sent by Literature Alliance Scotland members to the Leader of Argyll & Bute Council in connection with the decision to withdraw ten school librarians from Argyll and Bute.
Letter of 26 April 2016 to Councillor Dick Walsh, Leader of Argyll & Bute Council
Dear Councillor Walsh
ARGYLL & BUTE COUNCIL: SCHOOL LIBRARIANS
We are writing on behalf of the members of Literature Alliance Scotland earnestly to ask you to restore the ten school librarian posts from schools in Argyll and Bute, which were recommended for withdrawal by a decision of Council earlier this year. Literature Alliance Scotland, which brings together Scotland’s literature organisations, strongly argues for the vital role of school librarians in encouraging young people to read, introducing them to learning, improving literacy, and assisting pupils’ academic attainment and chances in life.
One of the key priorities for Scotland at present is to reduce the attainment gap between children in different areas of our society. The school library is an essential part of this foundation since it is open and equal to all pupils. The trained school librarian, in turn, transforms the library into a place of learning, or a ‘learning environment’, where pupils can be assisted in directing their own reading, learning and research. It is also a quiet and thoughtful place for study which pupils sometimes are not able to find at home, thus placing them at a disadvantage with their more fortunate peers, and the school librarian is there as a guiding and supporting presence.
Research data internationally supports the view that school libraries have a definite positive impact on academic achievement. In response to the digital age, school library systems internationally are now adapting to meet the likely needs of future generations of young people. The consensus is that school libraries, staffed by professionally qualified librarians, are vital in equipping new generations of pupils, today’s ‘digital natives’, with the skills they will need in a fast-moving and changing digital world. Some countries have already gone further than Scotland. Denmark, for example, where the Education Act requires every school to have a school library, decided in 2013 to make its school libraries into learning centres where the school librarian, ‘the learning instructor’, advises, trains and guides pupils in the learning skills they require for modern life.
Scotland has long been admired elsewhere for the strong network of school libraries that was built up across the country over successive decades in the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s by dedicated effort, enthusiasm and support from all sides. As you will know, COSLA produced its very important Standards for School Library Services in Scotland in 1998. We are certain that all of us wish to ensure that such an essential service is sustained and maintained for the young people of today and tomorrow and that its fragmentation, which denies opportunity to those affected, is avoided.
We understand and sympathise with current financial pressures, but we do urge you to reconsider this decision in the interests of the young people of Argyll and Bute.
Dr Ann Matheson (Chairman) Dr Robyn Marsack (Vice-Chairman)
LITERATURE ALLIANCE SCOTLAND
Membership at April 2016
- Association for Scottish Literary Studies
- Association of Scottish Literary Agents
- Book Nation/Borders Book Festival
- CILIPS (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland)
- Edinburgh International Book Festival
- Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust
- The Gaelic Books Council
- Moniack Mhor
- National Library of Scotland
- Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland
- Publishing Scotland
- The Saltire Society
- Scots Language Centre
- Scottish Book Trust
- Scottish Language Dictionaries
- SLAM (Scottish Literary and Arts Magazines)
- Scottish Society of Playwrights
- Scottish PEN
- Scottish Poetry Library
- Scottish Storytelling Forum
- Scottish Writers Centre
- Society of Authors in Scotland
- Universities Committee for Scottish Literature
- Wigtown Festival Company
- Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (Scottish Region)