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Have we got books for you

Labour wants schools to have more control over education spending - will it be at books' expense? Martin Whittaker reports

Resources offered by the school library service in Gloucestershire go much further than providing books for the classroom.

Its latest project is the Bullying Booklist, a list of stories and information books for youngsters to be published on March 31.

The list follows the success of a similar collection for teachers produced nearly two years ago, which was aimed at helping children talk about and come to terms with death.

The Bereavement Booklist was compiled with the help of Winston's Wish, a charity that works with children who have lost someone close to them. The list has sold well throughout the UK and prompted enquiries from as far afield as Belgium.

Liz Dubber, principal librarian for Gloucestershire's children and schools service, said: "It comes under our policy of trying to help schools find out about books, and trying to share our specialist knowledge as children's librarians."

In Gloucestershire half the cost of serving primary and special schools is funded by the county. Three-quarters of the county's primary and special schools and half of the maintained secondary schools are full members of the service.

As well as book loans, the services include training and advice on the best use of school libraries, use of multimedia, and resource packs on specific topics. Books are also sold at a discount, and are shelf-ready - complete with catalogue number and barcode.

"What we aim to do here is to save teachers' time in finding resources," said Liz Dubber. "We do the sifting and the selecting. We say, you want books on so and so? Here they are.

"We also save them money. Because we recycle books from school to school, collections of books go to where they're needed at the time they're needed. Schools which subscribe to our service get many more resources than they could buy for that same amount of money."

She believes school library services are under threat. "I think our future would be in jeopardy if 100 per cent of the funding was fully delegated to schools.

"It would leave the service very vulnerable to the annual decisions made by schools and to individual pressures on school budgets which can mean they're unable to afford school library service for one year.

"And if a lot of schools felt in that position for one year, the following year perhaps the service wouldn't be there for anybody, even though they may want to opt back in."

* literacy framework, page 16

* BOOK of the week, friday, page 8

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