A north-east council’s changes to school library services will “directly affect the quality of education”, it has been claimed.
Scotland’s professional body for librarians has accused Aberdeenshire Council of attempting to “de-professionalise” by removing the need for a formal qualification for more than 20 new posts.
The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS) has “raised concerns” by writing to every councillor.
It believes that offering new area librarian jobs without the need for chartership or library qualification, school librarians being redeployed and the removal of set hours from new school librarian posts will impact negatively on school kids.
Live Life Aberdeenshire, who operate libraries on behalf of the council, said the new structure would “modernise” the service.
The changes come after Aberdeenshire bosses scrapped mobile libraries in exchange for a book delivery service.
Changes are ‘counterproductive’ to attainment improvements
Sean McNamara, head of CILIP Scotland, said the changes in Aberdeenshire are a step in the wrong direction.
He insists they are doing the exact opposite of what ministers in Edinburgh are trying to achieve as they tackle attainment.
Mr McNamara said: “Our concerns that at the moment, when there is such a keenness to improve attainment and literacy levels, school librarians are crucial to that.
“There is also a national strategy for school libraries supported by the Scottish Government so to be making changes that actually downgrade the role of school librarians is actually counterproductive to these national efforts.
“We believe all school librarians should have some kind of library qualification to be able to do that job to a level that is required.
“I think the way the council has made these changes are almost cuts by stealth and it wouldn’t get noticed.”
Importance of librarians highlighted
Mr McNamara said that he feels parents will be “quite upset” at the changes to the job requirements and hours for school librarians.
He said properly qualified librarians have an important role to play in schools alongside teachers.
Mr McNamara added: “We think if parents are aware of the difference this would make to the provision in schools they would be quite upset.
“It is important to have excellent teaching staff but also excellent support staff. School librarians have a key role to play in that, by supporting the curriculum and reducing the dangers of misinformation.
“To downgrade that role across all schools is definitely a negative step in our view.”
What the letter to councillors says
In his letter, Mr McNamara is urging elected members across Aberdeenshire to reconsider the changes.
He wrote it would hit any work taking place in schools to improve literacy in school and boost attainment levels
Mr McNamara said: “Cutting levels of support, removing the need for qualifications, reducing hours and valuing posts at non-professional levels runs counter to current national initiatives aiming to support pupils and enhance literacy and will inevitably lead to a poorer overall educational experience.
“Studies highlight the contribution of qualified school librarians to improved attainment and achievement.
“School libraries are a safe and supportive learning environment where all pupils have equal and equitable access to curriculum-related learning resources, both physical and digital, practical support, and information for educational purposes.
“We believe that school libraries should be the central resource of the school, open every day and staffed by a qualified librarian with adequate additional support and we believe the changes you are making or have already made, may not achieve this.”
Live Life Aberdeenshire’s response
A spokesperson for Live Life Aberdeenshire said the organisation is “modernising” library services, “with a significant and focused resource in school libraries”.
The spokesperson pointed out that this included new school librarian posts “which we have not had for many years”.
The added: “All school librarian staff are professional, hold relevant qualifications and have responsibility for the school library, as well as supporting pupils and teachers.
“Making sure we have diverse thinkers with transferable skills, who are also educated to degree level, is also key to supporting young people in Aberdeenshire.”
The spokesperson added there were a team of “project-related posts” which add value and benefit children and young people.