I came across a piece in the Cotswold Journal yesterday reporting on the message of support we received from Booker Prize winning Author Yann Martel (2002).
Quotes appeared in the article from Councillor Noble which have left me rather bemused and frankly quite angry. Councillor Noble is responsible for public libraries in Gloucestershire so you would think she would know about the value and role of libraries but it seems not. She is quoted to have said:
I hope families concerned about proposed changes to libraries around the county will feel reassured that there are still fantastic resources available in their school library.
Councillor Noble should know as well as I do that school library services are NOT statutory, as is illustrated later in the piece when it states that schools can:
buy into the counties library service for education (LSE) and currently 145 of the 245 primary schools, 31 out of 41 secondary schools and two out of 12 special schools use it. Other schools, who are not members of LSE, can use services on a pay-as-you-use basis.
I ask Councillor Noble how she will reassure the parents whose children’s schools do not have libraries or are not able to buy LSE services? Were these considered in the library cuts? I doubt it. Schools are having to make savings too – what about the hundreds of school libraries closing up and down the country?
What will children have when their public libraries have been taken away also?
What about the children whose appetite for reading is more voracious than the school can cater for? School libraries are often no more than a cupboard with books in, if they exist at all.
What about the children who do not have a computer or access to the internet at home and so use the public library to do their homework?
What about the children whose first opportunity to taste independence and responsibility is walking to the mobile or public library with their brothers and sisters?
What about the children with family problems to whom the safety of the public library is one of their only escapes?
What about people who are not of school age that are losing their library service?
It seems to me that Councillor Noble is grasping at straws here. Councillor Noble is basically accepting that the library plans are flawed and damaging and that parents have cause for concern but the “reassurance” she tries to give is poor and misleading.
We have had hundreds of parents, teachers and literacy experts contacting Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries expressing their concerns and dismay at the library cuts but, as is clear here, Cllr Noble has no understanding of this. I have met many people who believe that all schools have libraries and so therefore public libraries are not needed but to hear this coming from the lady who holds the library portfolio for Gloucestershire is of grave concern to us.
Until school libraries are statutory Cllr Noble should refrain from making such misleading comments. Even if school libraries were statutory there is no substitute to taking your child to the public library to explore the world of books, imagination and learning together.
School libraries AND public libraries are essential
Councillor Noble should read a report published by the National Literacy Trust on 5th February 2011 which found that young people who use their public library are nearly twice as likely to be above average readers than peers who don’t visit their library. She should then go and have a hard think about the damage her and her colleagues are doing to our children’s futures with these drastic cuts to our public libraries.
To find out more about school libraries and the national picture see this fantastic website Heart of the School
Update: Cllr Noble’s astonishing comments are now being repeated by Sue Laurence, Gloucestershire’s Library Service Manager, who responded to a concerned childminder with,
“I note your concern for others and children in particular. However, don’t forget that school children will still have access to books and the school library and I am sure teachers are concerned to make sure their pupils have good access to books as part of their teaching of language and literacy”
It is of huge concern to us that someone in her position does not appear to understand the role of public libraries. This might explain the lack of logic behind the library plans!