I started the morning with an 8.20 am interview on BBC Radio South East discussing the decision to shut down Kent School Library Service.
A statement by the council said that it was introducing a ticket system for schools whereby they could borrow 100 books a year from the local branch library. I questioned this, making several points:
*When I was teaching my school would literally borrow hundreds of books in the course of the year. Surely the range of fiction, non-fiction and other materials would be narrowed markedly because of this system. Furthermore, how would the already under pressure branch libraries stock and distribute these loans?
*Where would the intimate link between School Library Service staff and schools come from? A good SLS provides advice, intervention, strategic planning, author visits and many other aids to schools. Most branch libraries, much as we admire their work, simply do not have the staff to do this. Some are currently fighting for their own survival because of cutbacks.
*When schools are already much less likely to go out of school than in the past, how would the take-up of borrowing hold up?
I voiced my concern that where similar ‘halfway house’ decisions have been taken, the support for schools often crumbles. The gold standard is a coordinated and integrated service to the public and schools involving three sectors:
*the public library service focusing on the local community and individual borrowers
*the school library prioritising the learners within their own establishment
*the school library service providing a broader range of material for primary and secondary schools who wish to buy in their expertise
Sadly all three services are under threat. Up to 1000 public libraries could vanish because of austerity measures and this service is statutory. Imagine the pressures on school libraries and school library services which are not.
Later today I am recording a short interview for BBC South East TV.