Sunday, 28 October 2012

Mass Lobby for School Libraries

Tomorrow there will be a large group of dedicated school librarians travelling to London to Lobby their MPs about the importance of school libraries for everyone, here is their press release . It is a little known fact that while it is statutory for a prison to have a library it is not statutory for schools to have one. There is overwhelming evidence that the presence of a well stocked library staffed with a trained librarian makes a huge positive impact on teaching and learning within schools right across the curriculum.

Last week I heard that I'd got my first professional position as a school librarian. I have worked in libraries for over 11 years, in both the public and the academic sector but I had increasingly felt the draw of the school library over this time. School is the one place that everyone attends, it's the one golden opportunity to get children really enthused about reading and to introduce them to the information habits that are now vital for our new information society. School librarians are in a unique position to support both of these goals- they inhabit a space where learning can be spontaneous, where children can dream and explore their interests and where they will find a keen adult reader who can guide them to just the right book for them at just the right time.

My new job is in a top independent prep school. If you want to have a career as a school librarian I have discovered that unless you are unbelievably lucky you will not find a state funded school near you with a position going, especially in the primary school sector. Even if there is a library in your local state school often the positions are paid at an unprofessional rate even though most school librarians will have degrees, further degrees in information and library studies and in a lot of cases they will have gone through the chartership process of our professional body CILIP. There is a school librarian network group on Yahoo where there are frequent mentions of job adverts offering pay so below the School Library Association's pay scales that people regularly report the schools to the SLA who then send them information on more appropriate wages. Yet there are often posts on the network from young and newly qualified school librarians who are so keen and passionate about school librarianship that they accept these low paid positions. Sadly it is also true that if a school doesn't 'value' a librarian enough to pay them a professionally appropriate wage it is also often true that they don't then allow that librarian to be a fully respected member of their staff. Over the past few years of researching the school library sector I have heard frequent stories about librarians not being welcome in staff meetings, not being told about new initiatives in the school and generally being sidelined into the library space.

To make it clear I believe that every child should have school library in their school, staffed by a school librarian who is supported by the school at every level.

Independent schools know how important this is for their students, that is why they are prepared to pay for a library and librarian. As tax payers we should demand that all schools are able to support a school library for ALL children. Nick Gibb, Minister of State for Schools, has said that he believes that every school should have a school library but that it is not his responsibility to make it statutory for them to have one. The librarians lobbying MPs this half term are asking for the government to think again.

I am SO excited about my new job, I can't wait to meet the children and the staff and to start conversations with them all about what they want to read, what they love to read and what they need to read to achieve whatever goals they have set themselves. I am planning on continuing to be voluntary librarian at my son's state primary school though because I want him and his school to have access to the very latest high quality books for children professionally selected with the needs of the individual school community considered.

Good luck to the school librarians and supporters lobbying their MPs tomorrow and thank you for campaigning for all children to have access to the service that they deserve and need.

Supporters can sign up on Facebook at Mass Lobby for School Libraries or follow progress on Twitter by following @lobby4schlib and these hashtags #lobby4schlib  #shoutabout