School Libraries & Youth Library Services: a dual threat

School Libraries are not statutory in the UK and Prison Libraries are; I have heard friends and colleagues making jokes that soon young readers would have to break the law before there would be someone available to help them choose a book.

The DfES believes “that a good school library service can have a significant impact on pupils’ literacy.” They would like to see “all schools have a well-stocked library and all secondary schools employ an information professional” but they believe that “this should be a local decision, not one mandated by Government. It is up to schools to target resources appropriately according to their individual circumstances and to make their own choices about school library provision and book resourcing.”

Public Libraries are a statutory service, Local Authorities are required by law to offer a comprehensive library service.

Over 200 Libraries have closed in 2012 alone.

Ed Vaisey is still ‘not currently minded‘ to intervene to defend the statutory duty to provide a ‘comprehensive’ service

Michael Gove believes that pupils should read 50 books a year – the equivalent of about a novel a week and that the academic demands placed on English schoolchildren had been “too low for too long”.

It is a well-known fact among librarians that we do more than stamp return dates in books, pack away returned items, book people onto computers and baby-sit for parents who need to pop to the shops quickly. Unfortunately it seems that this is not well-known to the general public at large.

I will not give a complete run down of what libraries offer all segments of the community as this is predominantly a blog about teens, libraries, schools, news and reviews (amongst a few other things) I will focus on some of the teen services libraries offer. The Reading Agency developed the Heaspace programme and from that MyVoice UK. On local levels librarians have developed and run individual reading, manga and library focus groups giving young people a say in what services are offered their libraries, most public libraries have a dedicated teen/YA area, there area gaming groups, homework areas, study spaces, volunteering opportunities. I have been involved first hand with setting up and running reading, manga and gaming groups for teenagers in three local authorities as well as offering training and outreach to library staff in others; I have worked with young people in care volunteering opportunities, as well as developing school outreach projects with colelagues, I have run the youth wing of a library development project. These are just things I have been involved with in public libraries off the top of my head

For many teenagers and children, libraries are often the only place that they can come into contact with books and people that are willing and able to help them choose something that they will be able to read and enjoy. The library can be found either in their school or the local public library.

Not every library offers everything for teenagers but most libraries at least offered a collection of books and a safe place to spend some time. Now there are 200 fewer safe places for them to gather and be introduced to new authors, old books and other literary delights.

When schools are inspected libraries are often overlooked or ignored, the inspectors did not even speak to me last week when they were at my school and I know from some discussion groups that I am part of that I am not teh only school librarian that has happened to. It is from these groups that I have received a vibrant welcome and a lot of truly excellent advice when I was a new school librarian.

There are many brilliant school librarians out there, some like myself are refugees from the wanton destruction of public libraries that has been taking place since last year. Other school librarians have been blazing the trail for years, and for all the truly amazing school librarians there are running fantastic school libraries there are many more schools that do not see the need for a librarian and in some cases even books – because they have the internet.

When staff who are against the wire look to the government for help all our political masters do is shrug and say “It’s not my job to make that decision guv!”

Besides, books are cheap, everyone can afford to buy all the books they need, Michael Gove has made sure that every state school has a lovely King James Bible AND he is asking authors for their lists of their favourite books.

Pretty soon I am sure we will wake up and hear the clocks striking thirteen.

That was depressing! Sorry, it has been churning in my head for a while and I needed to get it out. As bleak as things seem I truly do not believe that Libraries are lost. Coming up for a decade ago when I first came to the UK Libraries seemed to be on the top of the list of public services that were being expanded and developed. Links to other local government offices were being bolted on to the library service, I was swept into teen services and found it was something I loved and ran with it.

I believe in the work I do and have done, working in a school I have access to more teenagers than I had when I was in public libraries. For teen library services school and public libraries offer an almost symbiotic service. Public libraries can offer books that school libraries may find it hard to justify while in my experience School Libraries can cover the non-fiction side of the service for students better than public libraries. When both sides are in synch the service can be amazing but with the current butchery going on both sides are taking damage and the service suffers.

More depressing news is that I have been reading about Dave Cameron wanting to clamp down on and reform judicial reviews:

Cameron confirmed he wanted civil servants to stop conducting routine equality impact assessments for legislation, which assess the likely effect of new policies on women, disabled people and people from ethnic minorities, and to end cumbersome 12-week public consultations that delayed ministers from pressing ahead with their plans.

Anti-library closure groups have been using judicial reviews to reverse soem decisons that wee made to close libraries.

With organisations such as Voices for the Library and the Mass Lobby for School Librarians already standing against the destruction of out libraries perhaps it is time to start forming teen political pressure groups. There are school librarians across the country that have been involved in the Lobby March and VFtL must have youth service advocates in their ranks so if we can start radicalising the teens that we work with we can get a bigger voice – mobilising the upcoming generation of voters.

It is just a thought…

3 Thoughts on “School Libraries & Youth Library Services: a dual threat

  1. Pingback: Teen Librarian » teens, libraries, schools, news, reviews… » School ... | Professional development of Librarians |

  2. I might be speaking out too loudly without enough information but I’d say that the benefits of libraries have been eroded for some time even before 200 were shut. In primary schools, there’s no time to just enjoy a book – everything has to be studied. In secondary schools – well, how often is the library used by the rest of the school regularly? In my old school, the library was a place to go when it was cold out at lunch, nothing more for the majority of the school, the librarian unknown/unconsidered by other teaching staff.

    These are just small problems but they combine with others to promote the idea that books are stuffy and for bookworms and the number of people as a result who are so out of touch with books, libraries and reading is really quite depressing. The number of people I see who have no idea how to find a simple fiction book is astonishing. It’s really quite sad when our relationship with books gets so bad that we don’t even know how to find a book or explore beyond the next big trend, let alone allow 200 libraries to close and lose all those stories, resources and individuals.

  3. mattlibrarian on December 11, 2012 at 1:35 pm said:

    Many library services have been facing the death of 1000 cuts for years now, minor service reductions done so that incrementally tehy are hard to notice until there are too few staff members to cover everything and service budgets are reduced. Eventually people start using the library less and less until all of a sudden it is no longer a viable service and ripe for the cull.

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