School Libraries Facing Cuts
April 13, 2016
A new survey has shown the tough times many school libraries are facing in England. Budget cuts and the emerging digital world are forcing libraries to adapt to survive. But the importance of reading and fiction is still valued highly among many in the education industry. So what can be done to help preserve libraries in English schools?
The survey, conducted by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), questioned 485 teaching professionals about the library services in their schools. Thankfully, nearly all of the respondents at least confirmed their school had a library – for there is actually no legal requirement for schools to have the facility.
However, some worrying statistics emerged painting a picture of decline. Some 22 per cent of respondents said the budget for the library had been cut by at least 40 per cent since 2010. While 32 per cent said that there was no longer a designated librarian, and 21 per cent said there were not enough funds to effectively encourage reading in schools.
Nick Gibbs, the Schools Minister, said just a couple of months ago, that he wants all primary school children to read at least one book a week. The minister believes all the evidence points to reading being vital to children’s development. He said:
“Reading for pleasure is more important than a family’s socio-economic status in determining a child’s success at school.”
As such, we should consider the difficulties schools are facing seriously. Cathy Tattersfield, a member of the ATL, highlighted some of the stories emerging from the respondents. Some schools had all but reduced the library to the essentials, with hundreds of books ending up in the skip. Even one head teacher at another school decided that the library was no longer needed, as everything could just be read on iPads now.
However, the education landscape for school libraries is not quite all doom and gloom. For all the schools that are struggling – there were many who reported issues with over popularity of the service – 41 per cent said their library was not big enough to accommodate all the students who would like to use it.
Some schools need solutions to make their libraries more attractive on a smaller budget, while others need the tools to help them deliver their services to more students. Digital solutions, through biometrics and smartcards can help achieve both.
With a biometric fingerprint or smartcard registered on BioStore’s Identity Management system – the library can become an extremely flexible, fast and attractive learning resource. The borrowing and returning of books becomes incredibly easy to track, and login to computers is streamlined too.
By the book
What school libraries need more than solutions however, is stronger guidance and more support from the government. If the Schools Minister thinks reading is so vital, the provision of libraries should be higher up the priorities list.
The ATL agree. And as a result of its survey, it is calling for Ofsted to start including the standard of a school’s library services in their reports. Cathy Tattersfield of the ATL said:
“If the school library mattered in today’s accountability culture. If you could fail an Ofsted because of your library provision, libraries would not be at risk.”
It must be said, we were surprised that this was not the case already. Why Ofsted would not include school libraries as part of their assessments is really quite perplexing.
With the right push from government, and solutions that help libraries operate as smooth and as fast as possible, schools can transform their libraries into an extremely powerful learning resource for their students.