School Libraries have always had a special place in my heart (sandwiched between the pulmonary and aortic valves). For most of my school life they were a safe space and refuge from the bullying that I was subject to due to not being a sporty, outgoing sort of person and I had not figured how to stand up for myself until years later.
The secondary schools I attended had teacher-librarians, who, apart from occasionally shouting at students who were making a noise, generally left us to our own devices, lurking amongst the shelves reading.
Having been a school librarian for five years (this month) I still cannot understand why school libraries are not statutory, and have not been able to find an answer that satisfies me in any way.
CILIP has recently been more visibly active in the national conversation on libraries and their latest move in beginning an inquiry into developing a quality mark for school libraries is a move in the right direction to get senior management people in schools to recognise the value and importance of school libraries.
Quality marks have been around for a long while and I would guess that most people (in the UK) are aware that they show an organisation has been measured against set standards and has been recognised for offering a competent service.
A nationally recognised and agreed-upon set of standards against which school librarians can compare the service they offer is a move that is long-overdue.
It is fairly self-evident that not all schools are the same and thus the requirements they may have for a library service will differ from school to school but the underlying needs of teachers and students will be similar enough for set standards.
At present the inquiry is being run to determine the feasibility of such a scheme and shows that rather than acting unilaterally, CILIP is actively seeking out the views of school librarians, to include us in the decision that will ultimately affect all of us. I know two of the librarians involved, and rather than out of touch outsiders, they are professionals in good standing with years of experience in working in schools.
There is a fundamental misunderstanding of what libraries are and what they do amongst many people who do not use them regularly. They are looked upon as store rooms of books, with out of touch staff who patrol their territory mercilessly shushing anyone who attempts to talk above a funereal whisper. This view is sometimes held by members of senior leadership teams in schools who do not know what modern school libraries can offer to schools (there are also many SLTs who actively support and encourage school library use) and a quality mark will go some way to embedding the idea that libraries should be an integral part of all schools in the consciousness of SLTs.
In isolation I do not think that a quality mark will change ingrained misconceptions about school libraries but I do think that it is an important first step in celebrating what many school libraries already are and what they all can be!