An award-winning author has backed a petition - now signed by more than 37,000 people - against the decision to axe school librarians from all 23 of North Lanarkshire’s secondary schools in a budget-saving measure.
Former Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIPS) president, Theresa Breslin OBE, has joined local author, Damian Barr, and CILIPS representatives to condemn the decision by North Lanarkshire Council.
Back in June, Lanarkshire Live reported on how council officials said the 17 impacted staff members were being offered redeployment or voluntary redundancy, and that the cost-cutting plans - confirmed in the final days of the academic year - were originally agreed in the authority’s 2020 budget.
A petition set up online now has more than 37,000 signatures and top Scottish author Ms Breslin has highlighted the "detrimental effect" axing these posts will have on youngsters.
Carnegie Medal winner Ms Breslin told Lanarkshire Live : ""I am writing as a well-established author with extensive experience as a writer working in schools to encourage reading and creative writing, and as a former professional librarian - a principal officer providing youth library services.
"For many of our young people, the library within their school is their sole access to reading materials and professionally curated sources of information.
"Our school libraries are vital in supporting the curriculum at all levels, including certificate examinations. In addition to the promotion of literacy, literature, knowledge and information retrieval skills, a professionally delivered library service within a school embeds the joy of reading in our young people.
"Reading builds confidence, self awareness, articulate self expression, validates readers’ life and culture, and leads to social and emotional literacy.
"In the company of their peer group, the pupils have the best chance of accessing the materials which are absolutely crucial to their development as mature well-informed citizens of our country and of the world.
"Via extension activities - Buddy-Reading schemes with local primary and nursery schools, book clubs, poetry slams, arranging author visits, taking pupils to book festivals, and liaising with key organisations such as Scottish Book Trust - the pupil is exposed to a multitude of experiences which would otherwise be inaccessible to them.
"Other than a professionally staffed school library, there is nowhere else able to provide this service at that level.
"I foresee the detrimental effect the removal of the post of school librarian will have on the education and well-being of the pupils and am deeply concerned for the future prospects of our young people."
The online community petition opposing the removal of school librarians says the policy is “an assault on our young people reaching their potential” and highlights the importance of libraries as “a safe space for many vulnerable children”.
It states: “Reading for pleasure is directly correlated with increasing academic attainment. Literacy is the bedrock of success and our school librarians are the keystones.
“Meteoric inflation is hitting all our purses and buying books is a luxury very few can continue to afford [when] many working families are already being driven to food and uniform banks. We need to close the poverty gap but this will rip a hole you could drive a bus through.”
A spokesperson for North Lanarkshire Council said: “The council agreed to remove 23 full-time equivalent library resource manager posts from secondary schools [in] the budget process in February 2020, as part of a move to integrate existing library services across schools and wider communities.
“Implementation was delayed by the pandemic, but in March a review group was set up involving teaching and non-teaching staff and trade unions [and] has consulted with pupils, teachers and headteachers and developed a plan to ensure the new model operates effectively and schools are prepared for new ways of working.
“Meetings have taken place with affected staff, who will be offered a range of options including voluntary redundancy and redeployment. There are currently six vacancies in the service so this will involve 17 members of staff.”
* Don't miss the latest headlines from around Lanarkshire. Sign up to our newsletters here.
And did you know Lanarkshire Live is on Facebook? Head on over and give us a like and share!