Union joins library cuts fight

editorial image

UNISON East Renfrewshire says it will fight council plans to axe school library services.

The local branch estimates a 50 per cent reduction in services, and brands it the “second most unpopular cut” in the public consultation on East Renfrewshire Council’s 2014 budget savings proposal.

Steven Larkin, branch secretary of UNISON East Ren told The Extra: “A library without a librarian is just a room. Highly qualified and skilled school librarians help pupils find the information they need to study subjects and write reports and dissertations. Without this help, lots of pupils will find themselves lost, not knowing if the material they have found is well sourced or accurate.

“There is a mass of research suggesting the impact on pupil learning and attainment will be dramatic if this service goes.”

Gordon Lees, service conditions officer, added: “We are about to meet with council leaders about these cuts. Ultimately, it is our elected members who will be signing off these cuts, and it is they who have the power to tell education chiefs to look for savings elsewhere.

“We would encourage pupils and parents to write to their local councillor and demand this cut be dropped.”

A council spokeswoman responded that ERC will be looking to voluntary redundancy, rather than compulsory job losses, to streamline school libraries.

She said: “We want to find a way to retain our school librarians wherever possible because we know how valuable the resource is.

“We will still maintain librarian cover across all school libraries, but no school will have a dedicated full-time resource. These savings will be realised by changing the librarians’ hours and reducing the administrative activities they undertake.

“Staff are being consulted fully.”

As reported in The Extra, the blow to school libraries — to correct a £20 million, three year budget shortfall — has provoked anger from parents and school staff.

ERC was one of four councils included in a petition from Save Scotland’s Libraries to the Scottish Government in October — the group is now “cautiously optimistic” that MSPs may devise a strategy after appearing in front of the public petitions committee in November.