Plans for pupils to replace school librarians in one Scottish local authority have been roundly attacked and described as “the first step in getting rid of school libraries altogether”.
On Friday, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS) sent an open letter to Tracey Logan, chief executive of Scottish Borders Council, after learning of the plans.
The proposals, initially affecting three secondary schools with a view to eventually being rolled out in the area’s six other secondaries, were also challenged by the Scottish Book Trust, Literature Alliance Scotland, parents’ organisation Connect and the EIS and Unison unions.
CILIPS said it had been “inundated with expressions of concern”. In the letter, CILIPS director Catherine Kearney questioned how pupils could replace the professional expertise of librarians and help to drive up attainment.
She also asked how opening hours would be affected and whether the council – which stressed that the move would not lead to any redundancies beyond what had gone before – could back up its assertion that similar initiatives had worked elsewhere.
CILIPS trustee board chair Duncan Wright said the move “highlights a complete lack of understanding of the role of the school librarian by council officials”, adding that it was out of step with the Scottish government’s support for an upcoming national school-libraries strategy.
He added: “While 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…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.”
Marc Lambert, chief executive of the Scottish Book Trust, said: “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.”
A spokeswoman for Scottish Borders Council said: “We remain committed to maintaining library services for our pupils. There is a significant level of professional library input provided by a range of permanent staff across our secondary schools, as well as through a commissioned service, and again this is being maintained.
“We are however undertaking a review to take into account the changing way in which pupils study and access information, including through digital solutions.”
She added: “There are already good practice examples in some of our primary schools where younger pupils have been taking on the role of library ambassadors, and we are keen to see opportunities like this extended to our older pupils.”
The pilot in three secondary schools will be reviewed before the end of 2018, and the council also said it was looking at an idea from pupils of “extending library opening hours to fit in with their study schedules”.