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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.


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    Thursday, July 05, 2007

    Prime Minister's Petitions: School Libraries

    I have publicly supported three petitions on the Prime Minister's epetitions web site... and none of them have succeeded. That is, all of them have been rejected with a formal response - there is no record on the site of successful petitions, I note. (Can we draw some sort of conclusion from that, do you think?)

    The last petition -
    "We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to make the provision of professionally staffed libraries within all schools, both secondary and primary, statutory."
    - received a disappointingly low level of support (1,794 signatures) so it is unsurprising that it failed. However, the level of misleading verbiage in the response is disappointing (I assume that it doesn't actually demonstrate ignorance), and I reproduce the response in full below:

    The provision of a school library is not a statutory requirement and there are no current plans to alter this situation and change the legislation. It is the Government's policy to put as much money as possible directly into schools' budgets, allowing schools to target resources appropriately and to make their own choices about their school library provision and book resourcing.

    At their best school libraries are an invaluable asset to teachers and a source of great enjoyment, and learning, for children. There are various models of library provision in schools. Schools may have an on-site school library managed by a librarian, the collection may be managed by teachers and/or volunteers; or the onsite library may be run with or without the support of a Schools Library Service.

    Schools Library Services are optional services run by local authorities. Where there is no school library, book loans and professional advice are usually provided by a Schools Library Service. The Ofsted report 2006 'Good School Libraries' states that "Schools Library Services provided good support for schools, including specialist audits and advice, additional resources, training and opportunities for networking".

    The Department for Education and Skills is supporting various initiatives that promote reading and provide books for schools. These include:

    • working with The Reading Agency and key partners such as the School Library Association and the National Literacy Trust to improve links with schools, school libraries and public libraries.
    • 'Booked up', a scheme that will enable every 11 year old in England in Autumn 2007 to choose their own free book from a list sent to their school. The scheme will also provide an accompanying website, children's magazine and a range of add-on activities.
    • The 'Boys into Books' scheme, launched in May 2007 and administered by the School Library association, that will enable every secondary school to choose 20 books from a list for their school library.
    • In 2008 the Government will launch a National Year of Reading (NYR). The aim of the NYR is to encourage more people to read and people to read more, by promoting a culture of reading for purpose and pleasure.
    For the avoidance of doubt about "misleading verbiage",
    • I understand the sentence "At their best school libraries are an invaluable asset to teachers and a source of great enjoyment, and learning, for children" to imply an unspoken 'At worst...' suggestion;
    • I see "Where there is no school library, book loans and professional advice are usually provided by a Schools Library Service" as misleading, as it implies that - even without a school library - there is adequate provision;
    • I regard "The Department for Education and Skills is supporting various initiatives..." as largely irrelevant to the issue.

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