UK authors and librarians' open letter to Education Secretary: stop closing school libraries!

I remember the day I realised that my daughter's London school had no library, the shock I felt, the sense that the cuts had gone beyond the bone, and that kids were being deprived of something critical — and then the discovery that then-Education Minister Michael Gove was planning to spend a fortune distributing Bibles to schoolchildren with his name embossed in metal foil on the cover.

That was when the Tories were in coalition with the Libdems, who exerted some infinitesimal quantum of moderation upon the Nasty Party and its contempt for all public institutions and the people who rely on them.

Now, the Tory have new coalition partners, the Creationist thugs of the DUP, and there's no one applying the brakes, so the closure of school libraries has exploded to epidemic proportions.

CILIP, the professional association for UK librarians, says that 30% of school librarians have been made redundant since 2008. A typical school that lost its librarian went from lending 1,508 books to pupils a year with a librarian; and only 48 books after the librarian had been axed.

The UK is the only OECD nation in which young adults have lower literacy rates than seniors.

A group of 150 UK authors have signed an open letter to Education Secretary Justine Greening demanding that she staunch the bleeding, lest she "consign a generation to a lifetime of low attainment and mobility".

Since 2008, the provision of adequately-staffed libraries in schools and colleges with up-to-date learning and reading resources has declined sharply. I share with you the table below which has been shared with us by the librarian at a 'split site' state secondary school:

These figures represent a 97% decline in books issued to children at that school to support their learning and development. In the same period across the UK, the usage of e-books and electronic resources in schools in particular has flatlined and even in the last year begun to decline – it is not the case that use of books is being replaced by technology. It is the case that children are not receiving the support and encouragement they need in order to become readers.

We know from the National Literacy Trust's Read on Get on campaign that if a child cannot read well by the age of 11, the negative impacts on their attainment last for the rest of their lives. Unless action is taken urgently to address these historically low levels of literacy, there is no way that HM Government can achieve the stated objective of delivering a future-ready 'advanced skills' economy. Before they can read to learn, children and young people must first learn to read, to research and successfully to navigate today's information-rich world.

As the situation stands in England, whereas the provision of appropriately-staffed public and prison libraries is statutory on Local Government and HM Prisons Service, the provision of school and college libraries is not.

Dear Education Minister, it's time to stop the shocking decline in our school libraries

  • the nasty party