Schools in Scotland are replacing library staff with their own students

But opponents to the pilot scheme, which is run by Scottish Borders Council, say that it will put students at a disadvantage

A pilot scheme from Scottish Borders Council to replace library staff with school pupils has been criticised by unions and professional bodies in Scotland over concerns it will put students at a disadvantage—because instead of studying they’ll be effectively working in a library. 

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS) sent an open letter to Tracey Logan, chief executive of Scottish Borders Council after learning of the plans, arguing students should instead have access to a professional school librarian who “understands pedagogy and is trained in managing resources to support the curriculum, literacy and reader development”.

The proposals would see students at three secondary schools in the area fill in for trained library staff following redundancies last year, with the money-saving measure rolled out at its six other secondary schools if successful.

Unison, EIS and Scottish Book Trust have all also criticised the scheme, which the council says will allow senior students the opportunities to “gain qualifications and training in leadership and other areas”.

Marc Lambert, CEO of Scottish Book Trust shared CILIPS’ concerns that this is the first step to “getting rid of libraries all together.”

He told The Big Issue, “A school librarian plays a central role in ensuring the best educational outcomes for pupils, and that nothing can replace the expertise they represent, with all the proven benefits that come from their professional knowledge, and the care and attention with which it is delivered. Given this well-known evidential base, asking pupils to step in to replace the services of such a professional seems more desperate than sensible.”

The Scottish Borders branch of Unison is the latest to join the fight, launching a petition to cut the scheme which it claims “prevent[s] pupils from reaching their full potential.”

A council spokesperson said there would be no redundancies as a result of the pilot, which will be reviewed before the end of 2018, adding that part of its budget process has been set aside to maintain school libraries.

“However, within that, there is a requirement to recognise the changing way in which pupils study and access information, including digital solutions,” the spokesperson added. “There are also opportunities for senior pupils to gain qualifications and training in leadership and other areas through taking on roles in school libraries and supporting their peers.”

A similar scheme from East Renfrewshire Council was scrapped following protests three years ago. The scheme attempted to train senior-year pupils to help run on-site libraries at Scotland’s top-performing secondary schools and cutting librarians to save £131,000.

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