Monday, 15 March 2010

Campaign for the Book

In the current issue of Library and Information Gazette (11 March 2010), the front page story summarises the ongoing battle between school libraries and Downing Street. As I work in a school library this is something I feel very strongly about.

The Campaign for the Book, under the leadership of Alan Gibbons, submitted an e-petition to Downing Street asking for school libraries to be statutory, which was unfortunately rejected. The Government’s reply stated that a school library is a ‘key resource’ and left it for schools themselves to make the decision of whether they have libraries. Talk about sitting on the fence! This, I feel, is hugely hypocritical of the Government. Legally, schools have to provide careers information but do not necessarily have to provide any other sources of information. This makes me wonder, how on earth can a place of learning not possess a library? There is a startling trend which sees schools disbanding libraries because they are costly to source and the emphasis is now placed on Google as an all-knowing research tool. Indeed, in the borough in which I work, this has happened to several schools.

Grrrrr! I feel so passionately about this issue and it makes my blood boil that the Government does not feel it important. School libraries are statutory in Scotland and public libraries are statutory throughout the whole of the UK – how dare Downing Street say that school libraries in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are less important. If I ever bump into Ed Balls or Gordon Brown I’d give them a piece of my mind!

I didn’t want this blog post to become an outlet for my frustration and anger regarding the Government’s narrow vision; I’m really having to curb what I type, otherwise it would be. In fact, I fear it is already too late! I just can’t help myself! My original intention was to simply state how nice it is to see so many different organisations lending their support to the campaign by lobbying the Prime Minister. However, these bodies are mostly institutions that are connected to school libraries, for example the School Library Association. Whilst there are non-school bodies that have verbalised support, for example several authors, it would be nice for support from other sectors to be more forthcoming. I can’t help but wonder, would this campaign have received more support had the government been as flippant towards libraries in other types of educational establishments, such as colleges or universities. A library is just as crucial in compulsory education as it is in further or higher education. School libraries are where the profession grabs library users of the future – that alone should give them importance.

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