Herts County Council axe school library service

A PLEA to save the schools’ library service has been snubbed after the county council agreed to axe the resource aimed at boosting literacy among all children and young people throughout Herts.

Facing a predicted deficit of �41,000 for 2011/12 for the resource, Herts county council (HCC) cabinet recently agreed to pull the plug on the support network, which will end on March 31 this year.

The decision was taken despite a last-ditch plea from the National Literacy Trust and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals which warned that a, “vital support for literacy and learning will be lost.”

Schools’ library service staff provide qualified expertise in children’s books and online resources, giving schools easy access to up-to-date books and other reading resources via an assisted purchase scheme.

HCC councillor for St Albans central, Chris White, a member of the council’s libraries panel, has slammed the decision to axe the service.

He said: “I cannot see why the county council is obsessed with ensuring that this service makes a profit. Many local government services are a net cost – not least highways – and that is why we have councils.

“One of the key services is supporting pupils’ independence in research. In the internet age, guidance to young people over research methods is more important than ever. It is difficult to see how smaller schools will find a substitute service.”

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A cabinet report said the non-statutory service depended on income to cover operating costs, with about two-thirds supplied by direct buy-in from schools. However funding has dropped and become unviable because fewer schools had been buying in to the service in recent years, blaming reduced budgets.

Cabinet was told that schools could purchase services from similar services in Essex, Bedfordshire or the London boroughs.

The council will seek to redeploy as many of the service’s 12 staff as possible to suitable vacancies within the public library service or other council departments.

The decision follows a reduction in opening hours of public libraries last year and cuts to mobile library services.