Support our Libraries: Pressure grows to safeguard threatened North Lanarkshire school librarian posts

Pressure has been mounting this week to safeguard the jobs of school librarians in North Lanarkshire, with a petition securing support from the head of the National Library of Scotland and Scottish writer Damian Barr.

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS) said this week it was “deeply” concerned to hear of plans to remove school librarian posts by North Lanarkshire Council (NLC).

The decision was made as part of the local authority’s budget process in 2020 but has been delayed due to various factors including the pandemic. However, the council earlier this month acted to axe the jobs.

CILIPS said its entire workforce has signed a petition on change.org in support of the librarians, and has already secured more than 2,500 signatures.

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The petition states that NLC’s policy to abolish school librarians is “an assault on our young people reaching their potential”.

Writer Damian Barr, who has previously written about how Newarthill Library in Motherwell “saved” his life, has on Twitter flagged the petition, encouraging people to “fight back” against the cuts.

He said: “My school library was a sanctuary. Our librarian was inspiring and I read my way through the shelves. I wouldn't be a writer now if it wasn't for the library and the librarian.”

CILIPS believes that removing school librarian posts 'will severely damage the quality of education they offer pupils' (file image). Picture: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images.

Fellow writer Kerry Hudson urged people to sign the petition, saying the cuts make her “so scared for the kids for whom the school library is a refuge, an escape route – the place they go when things are really hard”.

Amina Shah, national librarian and the chief executive of the National Library of Scotland, also tweeted: “Investing in the school library is seen as essential – it supports educational outcomes and wellbeing of the pupils.”

Sean McNamara, head of CILIP in Scotland, said: "We believe that removing school librarian posts will severely damage the quality of education they offer pupils as well as undermine efforts nationally to improve literacy rates.

“We accept that this cut was taken by the previous administration, but for the new councillors to continue to push it through is an extremely short-sighted and counter-productive step, and we urge them to review.

Damian Barr at Newarthill Library, which he has said saved his life, is keen to see NLC protect its school librarians (file image). Picture: contributed.

“Evidence shows this could also damage attainment levels and parents should be extremely concerned."

It comes after Unison branch secretary Marie Quigley said her members were “rightly angered” about the way the council is treating “highly skilled and dedicated” school librarians.

“The promised review of library services has so far failed to materialise, leaving kids in schools without a crucial support at a time where education services feeling the effects of a decade of cuts on top of the disruption caused by the pandemic,” she added. “Staff and kids in North Lanarkshire are being let down again.”

A council spokesperson said last week that in February 2020, as part of the budget process, it agreed to remove 23 full-time equivalent (FTE) library resource manager posts from secondary schools.

They added: “Meetings have [now] taken place with affected staff, who will be offered a range of options including voluntary redundancy and redeployment. There are currently six FTE vacancies in the service so this will involve 17 members of staff. The council is committed to continuing to deliver a high-quality library services across its schools.”

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