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Another library service bookmarked for closure

Gateshead could be the latest area to lose its school library service as the council struggles to cope with public spending cuts.

The council is proposing to axe the library service to schools and instead fund two posts based in community libraries, as part of a drive to save #163;70 million over the next three years.

Closing the schools library service in the next financial year would save #163;56,000.

Children's author Alan Gibbons, who runs a campaign to save library services, has raised concerns about the move, pointing out that Gateshead is one of the library services involved in running the Northern Children's Book Festival (NCBF).

The 2010 NCBF attracted authors such as Julia Donaldson, of Gruffalo fame, and Korky Paul, illustrator of the Winnie the Witch books.

It has run for 28 years and is organised jointly by 12 local authorities.

Councils do not have to provide a schools library service, but most still do. The level of provision varies, but typically they provide librarian services for primary schools, including a rotating stock of fiction and non-fiction.

But some also supply curriculum resources, including a wide range of artefacts

However, since April 2010 the threat of more drastic cuts across council spending has seen the rate of closures accelerate.

In the past eight months, school library services in Cambridgeshire, Solihull and Kent have closed. Sutton has said it will close its service next year and in north London, Haringey has said it is likely to close its service too.

Tricia Adams, director of the School Library Association, said: "The issue is that they are seen as a soft target. Yet the contribution they can make to children's education can be quite dramatic.

"It is a huge shame that councils seem to be cutting them at a time when the schools need as much as support as they can get."

The proposal to close the Gateshead service is open to consultation, which is due to close on Christmas Eve.

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