Library staff in Scottish schools '˜down by third' since 2010

The number of specialist library staff in Scottish schools has dropped by almost a third since 2010, official figures reveal.

Pupils in the library at the new Portobello High School in Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Georgeson/JP Resell

It follows years of warnings from authors, education experts and unions that school libraries should be protected instead of being viewed as “soft targets” by local authorities forced to make huge cuts in spending.

The number of dedicated library staff working in secondary schools north of the border was 334 in 2010, rising to 336 the following year.

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But the number fell to just 240 last year, Scottish Government statistics show.

A spokesman for the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS), which represents 1,400 members across Scotland, told The Scotsman the availability of on-site, full-time professional librarian expertise was “the most vital factor in a successful school library and we believe all schools, both independent and local government funded, should offer this”.

They added: “We believe school libraries are vital in improving literacy levels and supporting young people to develop the skills needed to manage today’s information overload in a safe and secure environment.”

Ross Greer, education spokesman for the Scottish Greens, told The Times that “losing close to a few hundred school library staff in just a few years is just unacceptable and flies in the face of all the talk we hear from the government about closing the attainment gap through improving literacy.”

A decision by Argyll & Bute Council in 2015 to remove full-time libariains from its schools as the local authority stuggled to make £10m of savings prompted interventions from several well-known authors, as well as a petition to the Scottish Parliament to preserve such resources across the country.