Libraries have power to speak volumes to us

13th May 2011 at 01:00

Geoff Barton is a great advocate for school libraries in his article "Writing's on the wall if children don't read" (29 April). A well-resourced and enthusiastically staffed school library is, I believe, one of a school's best assets. There are many pupils who come from homes where there are no books and no reading culture. The school library with its well-chosen stock of fiction and non-fiction can be a fantastic resource for pupils, both as an information centre and for developing their own personal reading.

As Michael Morpurgo said in a previous article in The TES (17 September), "the heart and soul of any school is its library".

At our school the library is supported and utilised by many of the teaching staff and pupils are encouraged to make use of it, although not all do. However, in some schools it is perceived as an "add-on" with little relevance to the curriculum. The recent report by the School Library Commission concluded that in many schools the library is "a wasted resource, poorly embedded in the infrastructure of the school". Unfortunately, the library can be seen as an easy target when cuts are being considered.

Poor or under-used library provision does a disservice to pupils, who may never discover the pleasure of becoming engrossed in a book if they are not encouraged.

Alan Gibbons's Campaign for the Book has done much to raise awareness of the issues faced by libraries and those involved in the promotion of reading. However, as budgets are slashed and funding becomes tighter, many of the aims of the campaign are becoming increasingly difficult to achieve.

Maybe it is time Michael Gove looked at all the evidence in favour of school libraries and revisited the proposal turned down by the previous government, to make school libraries statutory in England and Wales, as they are in Scotland.

Fiona Crowther, Librarian, The Romsey School, Greatbridge, Romsey, Hampshire.

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