Cuts put library service at risk

3rd January 1997 at 00:00
The Pounds 107,000 school library service in Dumfries and Galloway is facing the axe on Tuesday after a survey of 118 primaries revealed that only half would pay for it on a commercial basis. A last-minute deal may yet save some elements of the books and materials service which employs the equivalent of four full-time staff.

Ian Pennie, the Independent education convener, set the decision against the background of further Government cutbacks and warned: "There are going to be casualties. I have great fears for the education service and I am tremendously worried how we are going to supply a worthwhile service to children."

Mr Pennie said the priority was to put teachers in front of classes.

In a report to the education committee, Ken Macleod, the council's director of education, makes it abundantly clear axing the service in March is the preferred option, although this would have "a considerable impact" on public libraries in small, rural communities and weaken the overall library service.

Mr Macleod acknowledges that a market model through which schools would pay a commercial rate for the service from their own budgets "would probably be unworkable". Only 52 per cent of primaries said they would buy the whole service or the project boxes service.

"This market research simply endorses the position taken by the department for education that the service is valued but its future funding has to be viewed against the overall spending priorities for schools," Mr Macleod advises.

The service has been in jeopardy for some time, despite strong pressure from Sir Hector Monro, Tory MP for Dumfries, and from school boards to retain what they see as a vital support for rural schools.

The research carried out by the libraries service showed overriding concern that children would be disadvantaged. Teachers said there was "no conceivable way a school could find the selection of books provided by the library", there would be "a book crisis" and that "every child in the school would suffer".

One added: "I am disgusted this service is being abolished. Those who made this appalling decision obviously have no idea what education is all about. They can answer to HM inspectors, not me. The education authority are the ones stunting my children's growth."

Sir Hector said: "Finances are tight this year but I think they perhaps misjudged the support given by the general public to the library service generally."

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