Bad news from County Hall today – members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee have decided not to add the decision to close Hertfordshire’s Schools Library Service from March 31 this year to their work programme.
We’re saddened by this, because we believe it’s a poor end for a service that produced a nationally-respected body of work, gaining attention and respect for Hertfordshire all around the country, and for the staff past and present that have worked in it. We’re also sad for all the teachers and school librarians that will now be soldiering on without any professional support from librarians.
The Schools Library Service worked to help school staff promote reading for pleasure, teach information literacy and develop research skills with pupils. The alternative sources of support suggested by the council either do not offer the same depth of expertise or fall foul of exactly the same problem that seems to have felled the SLS – precious little flexibility in school budgets to fund such work.
This was an opportunity for councillors to make a real commitment to the importance of child literacy and to examine how Hertfordshire would rise to the challenge of shifting trends in education funding and also improve its future decision-making. Unfortunately, these are opportunities they have decided not to take.
So where does it leave us, and other people who support libraries in Hertfordshire? Disappointed, of course, but now more determined than ever to make National Libraries Day on February 4th a success as a positive sign of the support and affection that exists for libraries across our area.
Despite calls from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) and the School Library Association (SLA) to explore alternative funding sources, Hertfordshire County Council is adamant that the service will close on 31st March 2012.
Mr Hayward said that the council had consulted with schools and "explored alternative structures and service offers" over several years in an attempt to address the service's problems.
"All in all, we have reduced the cost of providing the service by 43% over the last five years, but it is still in deficit, and it has become increasingly difficult to develop a service offer at a contract price which individual schools are now prepared to pay," he said.
"If the value that schools place on the Schools Library Service does not translate into actually buying subscriptions, then the service is no longer financially viable."
"No school library should close as a result of this decision."
source: BBC News