Petition set up against school library cuts

A PETITION has been set up to try and get a council to rethink pulling the countywide Schools Library Service (SLS).

The SLS provides facilities, including mobile services, books and specialist resources, to libraries at schools either through an annual subscription or as a pay as you use (PAYU) service.

Herts County Council’s (HCC) libraries cabinet panel voted last week, as reported in The Comet, to recommend that it should be scrapped, due to a financial deficit.

But North Herts group We Heart Libraries is campaigning to save the service, and has set up a petition which, at the time of going to press, had amassed 150 signatures.

“It’s a vital service, especially for primary schools and smaller secondary schools,” said Hitchin-based Andy Darley, who heads the group.

“School librarians tend to be working on their own, they don’t tend to have a network.

“This has all happened at very short notice, it was kept pretty quiet. The agenda item was added late, so we’ve tried to do what we can.”

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The petition won’t be presented at Cabinet on Monday, when a final decision will be made, but Mr Darley hopes that it will make councillors take note.

“I absolutely believe them [councillors] when they say they are supportive of libraries, but their votes aren’t where their hearts are,” he added.

“The petition has grown really fast. It won’t be presented at the Cabinet meeting, but it is being noticed. That’s the aim now - to get councillors taking note.”

The Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals (CILIP) and the National Literacy Trust (NLT) also condemned the likely closure of the Herts service this week, and said it could eventually impact the whole country.

Annie Mauger, CILIP chief executive, said: “We are very 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.

“The end result of this decision is pupils getting less support in a time where literacy levels and skills for life are more essential than ever. Hertfordshire County Council may feel that they have no choices as this is a traded service, but my concern is that this will create a domino effect across the country.”

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