Arresting reading for the boys

Thumbs down as boys read more books at Brechin High in Angus, confounding national trends. Using an automated library system, pupils give their name to the librarian and press a thumb print on a scanner.

Each print is unique, confirms the identity of the borrower and does away with library cards. "In the first six months, boys were borrowing more books than girls and it may be down to the technology," Lillian Downie, the school's librarian, says. As expected, more works of non-fiction were taken out by boys.

Angus announced plans on Tuesday to extend the scheme to other secondaries and some primaries, despite sensitivity nationally about possible misuse of the system.

Mrs Downie said that parents had been informed and given their consent before pupils registered by placing their thumb on the scanner four times. The scheme is not compulsory and cards can be issued if pupils want them. "It has been absolutely brilliant and made my job easier," she says. "The stock is more available to pupils and they can search the catalogue from any PC in the school. They know what's on loan, they can reserve items and write reviews of books online."

The thumb identification was also a safeguard for pupils. "Nobody can use their card and take things out in their name."

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