Beds, Herts & Bucks

Herts County Council asked for School Library Service reprieve

Hertfordshire County Council is being asked to review its decision to close the Schools Library Service (SLS).

In December 2011, the council announced it would close the service on 31 March 2012 due to "decreasing demand".

Professional bodies including the School Library Association (SLA) have now written to the county's headteachers.

They have asked them to urge the council to consider alternatives to closure.

Professional support

The SLS provides provides professional support to libraries at schools in the county, including mobile services, books and specialist resources, either through an annual subscription or a pay-as-you-use service.

In the 2011-12 period, approximately two-thirds of its income will come from schools but as demanding is declining, the fall in income for the year is estimated to result in a loss of £41,000.

Chris Hayward, cabinet member for Libraries at Hertfordshire County Council, said: "Only a third of secondary schools and 43% of primary schools now choose to subscribe, with others finding alternative provision, and many of the schools that do still buy in have reduced the amount that they spend on the service."

As a result, the Hertfordshire Libraries and Local Panel decided to pull funding for the service.

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) and the School Library Association (SLA) have now stepped in and are calling for the council to explore alternative funding sources.

Annie Mauger, chief executive of CILIP, said: "I am incredibly concerned about the impact that the closure will have on children's education and attainment.

"The decision to close the service has been taken at short notice and I can see no evidence that the council has considered alternatives, such as restructuring."

Director of the SLA Tricia Adams added: "With so much national attention focused on improving literacy standards and the importance of reading to support educational achievement this should not be the time to close a service that helps schools address these issues."

'Explored alternatives'

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."

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