Culture, Media and Sport CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the School Library Association

1. Summary

Who we are.

Research background.

Impact on school children.

Children’s access.

Internet.

Spaces.

Desks.

2. Response

Who we are

2.1 The School Library Association (SLA) is an independent charity established in 1937, which trades as an incorporated company. The School Library Association (SLA) is committed to supporting everyone involved with school libraries, promoting high quality reading and learning opportunities for all. The School Library Association offers:

Advisory and information services.

Lively, practical publications.

The School Librarian, our quarterly journal.

Relevant and focused INSET.

A network of branches for local support.

Advocacy for school libraries and School Library Services.

A significant voice at regional and national level.

2.2 The SLA vision believes that every pupil is entitled to effective school library provision. The SLA is committed to supporting everyone involved with school libraries, promoting high quality reading and learning opportunities for all.

3. Research Background

3.1 There is much relevant research on the benefits of wider reading, the impact of reading and resultant discussion of reading on the motivation and mental health of individuals and this is shown in improved achievement and future for the people involved in the reading activity.

Selected Research examples

Clark, C (2011). Setting the baseline: The National Literacy Trusts first annual survey into reading—2010. London: National Literacy Trust.

Clark & De Zoysa (2011). Mapping the inter-relationships of reading enjoyment, attitudes, behaviour and attainment: An exploratory investigation. London: National Literacy Trust.

Clark & Hawkins (2011). Public Libraries and Literacy; Young People’s reading habits and attitudes to public libraries, and an exploration of the relationship between public library use and school attainment. London: National Literacy Trust.

Kennedy, R & Bearne, E (2009). Summer Reading Challenge 2009: Impact Research Report. Leicester: United Kingdom Literacy Association.

Reading for Change (2002). OECD.

4. Library Closures

4.1 The problem as viewed by the SLA, when authorities are looking at library closures, is the impact those closures can have on children and young people. Children and young people tend to be dependent on others, either parents or public transport, for getting them to libraries, thus the closure of smaller, very local branches makes this dependency even more crucial. Thus the closure of smaller branches impacts more highly on this demographic.

4.2 Similarly the movement of authorities towards smaller libraries being run by volunteers also impacts on the support the children and young people can access. Without access to specialist librarians who have been trained in work with children and school students the support that should be available through local libraries, in terms of homework support and study support generally, are reduced, or non-existent. This can be particularly damaging where children are not in a home that esteems academic learning and achievement, and where there are multiple conflicting demands on space available for concentrated learning. These are also the homes that are less likely to have good Internet connection, or a dedicated PC for academic work. Public libraries are frequent providers of good quality Internet access, often free of charge at the point of use. Public libraries have a proven track record in providing homework and study support over a number of years.

4.3 Public libraries of all sizes are able to provide safe spaces, for work or reading, and suitable seating and desks, as well as a multitude of resources. Closing libraries will increase the demand for the resulting space in the libraries left open, making it less easy for those without the supportive home environment to achieve.

4.4 School libraries can mitigate some of these effects, though schools do not have a statutory duty to provide a school library currently. Also, transport issues can mean that a student is not enabled to stay late in a school library (if it has opening hours which run beyond the school day—by no means a given). Also, some small percentage of students will be reluctant to access a library within school; the non-judgemental space available in a public library can be the place for these students.

January 2012

Prepared 5th November 2012