IFLA SL Newsletter

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School Librarians in the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland

By Karen Usher
South Hunsley School,
East Yorkshire


In neither the UK nor the Republic of Ireland are qualified, or even trained, School Librarians a legislative requirement. School inspections and standards do necessitate a school library. Many schools do have qualified staff due to local authority input and progressive Headteachers. Special initiatives may result in qualified librarians in schools, such as the Republic of Ireland’s special project for STATE (VEC run) disadvantaged schools has 11 schools a further 40 being phased in over a period of time, where full time qualified librarians have been provided. Reports often call for qualified librarians in schools, e.g. in 1999 the COSLA report “Standards for school library services in Scotland” recommended that all secondary schools should have the full time services of a Chartered or qualified librarian. Finance is one of the overriding factors in the provision of qualified librarians.

Qualified librarians do not necessarily have specialist training when they become School Librarians. Aberystwyth and Sheffield Universities in the UK offer modules, which are increasingly popular, that deal with children’s and school librarianship and children’s literature. They are optional modules. In the Republic of Ireland there is also a short module in a diploma course dealing with school librarianship.

The University of Ulster has a new course for School Librarians that is a day release course. Those who become school librarians often pursue training themselves on the job. There are a number of organisations that offer training on a variety of subjects. Both CILIP: School Libraries Group and the School Library Association hold weekend schools. Regional Branches of the SLA, CILIP: SLG and CILIP: Youth Libraries Group offer Day Schools of interest to school librarians and the SLA has an extensive and excellent publications programme. CILIP also publishes books relevant to school librarianship and makes representations at Government level on matters relating to school librarians. In the Republic of Ireland the SLARI offers 2 seminars a year, which include practical sessions. There have also been some summer courses in school librarianship from the Church of Ireland College of Education. From next year University College Dublin will be including a new module on school libraries in the syllabus for the Diploma in Library and Information Studies.

On the whole Primary Schools (children under 11) have a teacher in charge of the Library; in Secondary Schools (children up to 18) there is usually a Librarian. This age structure does vary around the UK. In the UK, in many counties, schools buy into their Local Authority’s School Library Service. In general an SLS will offer loan collections, special project collections, professional advice and, sometimes, training for schools. Those Schools that use SLS’s appreciate their excellent support services. Unfortunately SLS’s are not statutory and have to be run as business units with Schools ‘buying’ into their services. This has resulted in many Authorities shutting their SLS’s. Schools are then left to their own devices or have to buy into the services of neighbouring councils.

To promote librarians in 2005 the SLA launched ‘School Librarian of the Year’. Schools have to nominate their Librarians for this honour and there is a rigorous selection process. The Times Educational Supplement, a national weekly read by most teachers, features the School Librarian of the Year, thereby letting many teachers know what their school libraries and school librarians can do for them. There are efforts in the UK to promote reading as an activity to young people through schools and teachers. Teacher training now includes modules on children’s libraries and children’s literature – often this input is given by the local SLS. There are also numerous local Children’s Book Awards with children having a central role is choosing winners. CILIP has the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal Shadowing Scheme which involves over 1500 schools reading the same books as the Judges. World Book Day and National Children’s Book Week are also used by school librarians to promote reading. As with many countries there is a mixed picture of provision in the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland. Many organisations and individuals know what would constitute the best provision for our children in schools but it is the financial implication of instituting the best provision that militates against it. We must all keep trying to get the

January 8, 2007 Posted by | 2. Issue 42, 3. Theme:42: SL-education, Ireland, U.K. | Leave a comment