Donaldson calls for council u-turn over school librarians

Children's writer Julia Donaldson has written to the First Minister to demand a U-turn over a Scottish council'˜s decision to axe school librarians.

Young reader Tate Woodhouse meets children's author julia Donaldson, who has called for schoo librarians to become mandatory. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The author of The Gruffalo and former Children’s Laureate has written to Nicola Sturgeon warning that the move by Argyll and Bute Council would “obviously result in a decline in literacy” and urged Ms Sturgeon to make a secondary school librarian a stautory requirement.

A petition calling for the council to change its mind has already attracted more than 2,000 signatures and the support of other high-profile literary figures including Scottish illustrator Debi Gliori and children’s writer Barry Hutchison, author of the Invisible Fiends series. The issue was also raised by Theresa Breslin, president of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland, who wrote to the council raising her objections.

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However, the local authority still went ahead with the cuts which saw all school librarians made redundant on 30 June when the last school year finished.

Ms Donaldson wrote: “I am worried that the situation in Argyll and Bute might set a precedent for the rest of Scotland, and I would urge you to persuade the councillors to reverse their decision. Obviously you and not I are the policy maker, but I did have the idea that provision of a secondary school librarian could be a statutory requirement.”

She added: “With so many public libraries disappearing or being run by volunteers, it is surely vital that children have access to books and to professional advice. The cost-cutting argument against this is very short-sighted, since it is widely known that illiteracy leads to increased unemployment and crime, putting a strain on other budgets.”

Ms Donaldson became aware of the issue after being contacted by Oban High School pupil Bridget Cox.

She said that in addition to the loss of dedicated library periods and access to books, the students would also miss out on other activities led by the school librarian such as trips to the Edinburgh International Book Festival and book and poetry clubs.

A spokeswoman for Argyll and Bute Council said it had been forced to make savings of more than £10 million in the 2016-17 financial year.

She said: “Pupils will still have access to staffed libraries. Local arrangements will be made within schools to ensure pupils are supported to make use of school libraries or through the council’s public library services.”