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Top authors join fight to save library service

Children's authors Michael Rosen and Mary Hoffman have pleaded with the north London borough of Haringey not to close its school library service (SLS) - almost 20 years after they helped to save it.

Haringey looks set to be the next victim of the wave of closures hitting SLSs. The service, which provides books and artefacts for schools in the London borough, was threatened in the early 1990s, but was saved after a campaign which attracted supporters, including local authors.

Diana Edmonds, Haringey's assistant director of culture, libraries and learning, has said that the service is now likely to close next year.

A further statement from the council, which serves north London from Tottenham to Highgate and Muswell Hill, said: "Given the deep government cuts, all areas of expenditure are being reviewed and the SLS is no exception. Every effort is being made to find the funds for the service to continue next year, but the council is also charged with prioritising spend against the pressures dictated by government."

If the service closes, it will be the fifth to do so since April 2010. Cambridgeshire, Solihull and Kent have closed their SLSs already while Sutton has said it plans to close its service at the end of this financial year.

There are currently 61 schools in Haringey that are eligible for the service, but only 23 subscribe.

Mary Hoffman, author of more than 90 books, mobilised the fight against closure of Haringey school libraries service in 1992.

"We had to fight every year and to hear we are still having to fight and possibly losing is a very gloomy outlook indeed," she said. "I do sympathise with heads who are having to make cuts. But the school library services is a secret treasure, it's an unknown asset running underneath education."

Michael Rosen, former children's laureate, said: "It should be the lifeblood of a school, feeding in satellites of books to support teaching. I deplore what Haringey is doing. It indicates the consequence of two governments' education policies which despite all the talk about raising standards is doing the opposite. The only way to improve standards is to put books in the hands of children."

A commission into school libraries set up by the National Literacy Trust and the Museum, Libraries and Archives Council is due to report its findings this week. It is being chaired by former education secretary Baroness Morris.

Library services fight back, pages 26-27

Commission call

'It is a wasted resource'

School libraries and school library services are a "wasted resource", the School Library Commission said this week. The commission, chaired by Baroness Estelle Morris, has 32 specific recommendations. It calls on heads to ensure libraries are part of schools' improvement plans, on librarians to involve pupils and teachers in developing them, and on local authorities to support library services. It stepped back from calling for all school libraries to be made compulsory, saying it "would be time wasted".

"I think the way to make the argument is to persuade those people who hold budgets of the part libraries play in children's learning," Baroness Morris said.

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