Petition PE1581 School Libraries – UNISON Scotland submission to the Public Petitions Committee December 2015
UNISON members deliver a wide range of services in schools. Members include: librarians and library assistants, technicians, school administrative staff and classroom assistants. UNISON Scotland is able to collate and analyse member’s experience to provide evidence to inform the policy process. We therefore welcome the opportunity to submit evidence to the committee on school libraries.
Local government has borne the brunt of public sector cuts in Scotland. Over 40,000 jobs have been lost and the information we have gathered from local authorities indicate they expect the next budget allocations to be equally difficult to manage. Local authorities have so far been salami slicing services, relying on non replacement of leavers and voluntary redundancy to meet the cuts. This is no longer going to be enough and so the next round of budget setting is laying out more radical changes in service delivery and design.
School librarians are best placed to lead on supporting young people and teachers to better use the internet to find information. It is vital that we invest more not less in this service.
The Scottish Government has set targets to reduce inequality particularly round educational outcomes for young people. Sadly it is young people from the most deprived backgrounds that need school libraries and librarians the most. They are least likely to have access to computers, printers and quiet warm places to do homework, research and general studying. If school libraries have limited opening hours and do not have qualified staff then young people will have less access to information when it’s closed and less support to find the information even when it’s open.
Opening libraries but leaving them unsupervised is also no guarantee that they will be quiet places where work can be done. Children from less well-off backgrounds are also less likely to be able to get support in information gathering and filtering at home. Their parents are also less likely to be able to afford private tutors. People from less well-off backgrounds will be more disadvantaged by the cuts than their better-off peers even in the same school.
UNISON was disappointed that the recent National Libraries Strategy did not cover school libraries and would support the development of a school libraries strategy. For it to be effective, like the libraries strategy, it needs to be supported with adequate funding for local government to deliver the service. Otherwise it’s just warm words.
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