Over 1,000 responses were received from schools with libraries for the SLA survey. The survey was undertaken after anecdotal reports of the effect of recent educational and economic changes on school libraries.
The report highlighted the key entitlements that a school library can fulfil for young people and children.
The survey showed that the resources a school library should offer include:
- A skilled library practitioner with the resource, knowledge and time to help and inform young people and assist them in developing the literacy skills relevant for today’s world and market place. This should include digital literacy, information literacy, and oral literacy, reading literacy, numeracy and skills for personal knowledge building.High quality, wide ranging classroom and library resources that will support the curriculum with easy access for students.
- A safe environment for young people to seek school library books, resources and advice both inside and outside of school hours.
- An environment where children are encouraged to be valued as individuals through access to books that will support them emotionally, culturally and leisurely.
Of course the report is realistic about how these terms can be achieved and the SLA understands the many obstacles that face schools when aiming to achieve these results. Notably budgets were the biggest challenge and research showed that some schools have as little as 62p per pupil. The Booktrust survey of 2007 recommended that secondary schools ought to spend £14 per pupil on library books, but of course, 92% of schools are unable to meet this amount of money.
The library support staff that were featured in the SLA survey had comments that showed librarians, a lot like teachers, feel that they are underpaid and overworked and do not have the time, resources or budgets to fully support children in their learning. One comment from a member of staff reflected the fact that the library has no status within most schools and also no support and that most libraries maintain their budgets merely because no one cares enough to take a closer look at it. It`s definitely bitter sweet.
School Library Association Director, Tricia Adams, concluded the report by saying; “The SLA is committed to supporting everyone involved with school libraries, promoting high quality reading and learning opportunities for all. The results of this survey seem to indicate that there is less and less of a high quality service being provided for our students. Without the skills and pleasures that reading and researching can give us we will have a cohort of students lacking essential life and work skills.”
The following steps were recommended to ensure that all school goers have equal access to the benefits a school library is likely to offer its students. Of course just as the SLA understood the different needs of different schools, and the different obstacles, it also understood that the solution for each school would be different.
- Ofsted inspection of the role of school libraries in schools reading for pleasure and literacy policies
- Schools Library Services offering more Librarian-based advice and support services into Primary Schools to support staff there
- Government support for trained school librarians in secondary schools as a first step towards trained librarians in all schools
- Exploration of co-location and facility sharing options between public and school libraries, groups of schools or clusters
- Ofsted inspection of the library role in whole school curriculum support
Whether these guidelines can be maintained remains to be seen, but the positive effect of libraries and their support staff on school goers cannot be denied. The promotion of high quality reading and learning opportunities is important and is at the heart of The School Library Association.
The SLA is a registered charity that was formed 75 years ago to support everyone involved in school libraries.