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Library service in decline

A depressing picture of the state of school and public library services emerges from the latest report by Loughborough University's library and information statistics unit, writes Diane Spencer.

Claire Creaser, the author, says services are being lost at the rate of one or two a year.

Since 1990-91, staff numbers have fallen by a fifth in England, materials funds in school library services by 28 per cent and materials funds in public libraries by 4 per cent. But children's staff in public libraries in metropolitan areas have increased by a fifth, and 14 out of 67 authorities have experienced increases in materials funds for public and school library services.

Four authorities provide only a support service to schools and 12 have axed theirs. Newcastle ceased to operate in April, Liverpool closed its support service in July, Lancashire applies a pay-as-you-use system for secondary schools, the London borough of Haringey provides a service from nursery to 13 years and only seven out of 13 Welsh authorities provide a service.

The report notes a trend towards schools providing the main source of income for the school library service. In the counties, nearly three-quarters of schools' services are run on an agency basis by the library service on behalf of the education authority; in metropolitan districts, 57 per cent; and in London, 54 per cent.

The proportion of LEA pupils served fell by 5 per cent in 1994-95. In only seven counties, 12 metropolitan districts, five London boroughs and four Welsh authorities are all LEA schools served.

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