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R.I.P. School Libraries?


It seems again that school libraries are facing the risk of closure.

With one head teacher deciding that ‘all reading can be done on iPads’, it seems that school libraries, like public ones, will face an uphill battle to stay open.

All evidence suggests that libraries are a must for a community and international research has found that a ‘good library provision boosts pupil attainment’.

But with the seeming increasing derision for the humble book, too many schools are viewing books as obsolete.

Yes, it is important for children to read. But encouraging them to read on an iPad or other such device is not the answer. Getting children interested in reading in the first place is key; and this must predominantly done by allowing the individual child to find genres or authors that interest them.

Too many children already, in this day and age, spend too much time staring at computer screens; whether this be a PC, laptop, or tablet computer or even the TV. We hear reports that children and young adults are spending four hours or more on average a day in front of a screen. I see it all the time, children and YA with their phones glued to their hands, taking ‘selfies’ every five seconds; slouched watching TV, or hours spent chatting to ‘friends’ on Facebook, or SnapChat etc. And an answer is to let them use another screen to read. No thank you!

[I’m not against using an e-reader device, I have a Kindle myself, but I still read ‘paper’ books too. But then again I’m no longer a child.]

And so it seems that school libraries sadly may be seeing the beginning of the end, with a third of secondary school’s library budgets slashed by 40% or more, in which they have faced reduced opening hours, cuts in staff hours, and the replacement of trained, dedicated and knowledgeable library staff with support staff or teachers.

Dark days are ahead for the life of the school library.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “We want all children to read widely and well and believe school libraries can play a vital role in fostering that love of reading.’


Because of course, their local council-run library may have been closed too! As another BBC report only two weeks before << http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-35707956 >> reveals to us that libraries have lost a quarter of staff as hundreds close, with real fears over the future of the profession.

This annoys me no end anyway. I spent a lot of my childhood at the local or central council run library in my home town of Doncaster; my local one now incidentally isn’t there anymore. And I also spent lots of time in the school library too. I grew up with my nose in a book, and I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am for that.

But what really irritates me is when reports and stories come out which highlight that UK pupils are lagging behind in English, or when they leave (primary) school and find it difficult to read or write; that they struggling with spelling and grammar; that they don’t feel confident to take part in class because they struggle with the basic skills. It makes me want to tear my hair out.

I’ve seen it first-hand when I worked in a local village library; children unable to spell (and unable to use a dictionary!); children who can barely write their own name; children whose speech is hindered by their limited vocabulary: all of which can be helped and improved by reading. And where better to read – a library, whether it be local or school.

‘They’ realise that in the UK we have a real problem with the literacy level of primary and secondary school children, and yet ‘they’ seem more than content to let the things that will help face cuts and closures.

I fear one day we will wake up and realise that our children or in fact anyone at all does not have the privilege of being able to borrow a book from a library.

Is it then a stone’s throw away from books being obsolete altogether?: Ray Bradbury predicted that sad day.

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