Decision time on Hertfordshire schools library service

THE proposal to axe one of the country’s largest and most respected schools library services next year, has raised the ire of the leading professional body for librarians and a literacy charity.

A Herts County Council cabinet will on Monday, December 19, make a final decision on whether to discontinue the support services it provides to school libraries from March 31, 2012.

This follows a recommendation by the libraries cabinet panel on December 7 to axe the service because it is running at a deficit and deemed no longer viable.

The service promotes reading for pleasure in schools by ensuring libraries are modern and well-run.

It also operates a mobile library vehicle which visits schools, and provides access to high quality information material, up-to-date books and other reading resources.

Despite staffing reductions last year, saving �80,000, the service is predicted to have a �41,000 deficit for 2011/12.

The service operates on a traded basis and is expected to cover its costs, with about two-thirds of its income obtained from direct buy-in from schools. However fewer schools have been buying in to the scheme, citing reduced school budgets.

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Annie Mauger, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals said: “We are shocked and saddened. This is a bitter blow to the hundreds of schools and thousands of children who benefit from the support of this service. Vital support for literacy and learning will be lost.”

She warned that while the council may feel it has no choice but to axe the scheme, her concern is its closure will create a domino effect across the country.

Jonathan Douglas, director of charity the National Literacy Trust said the Herts schools library service has, “an iconic status as a centre of excellence in this field”.

He added: “If a service that is one of the biggest and best in the country is set to close, this threatens every schools library service in the country.”

Chris Hayward, cabinet member for libraries, said that if cabinet decides to close the service, schools could purchase materials directly from library suppliers.

He went on: “No school library should close as a result of this decision.”