I see in the paper that there is a school which is closing down its library. Not surprisingly, Philip Pullman thinks that is a bad idea.
And it is, but it’s not a surprising idea, at all. I only know one (secondary) school library, but even that is struggling against the change of the times. Our local council appears to be one of the worst “paid” in the country. And with what little money it has, the council gives less per pupil to schools than many others. “Our” school, in turn, is the one in the borough that gets the least money per pupil, because ours is such a prosperous area.
I don’t know if this spiral of less money to the less deserving continues within the school, but it may well do, in which case the library doesn’t get much. During the years I volunteered there, the money came to an end long before the financial year did.
“The expertise of a qualified librarian to guide the students” is what Philip reckons is important for schools. It is. But does it happen? Our school does not have a qualified librarian. It has someone who used to work in the school office doing the work of the librarian. She does it well, and I would guess she does it for less money. But being keen is not everything, and I expect that there are things she simply doesn’t know.
The shelf life of books is pretty short in our LRC. (It stopped being a library ages ago.) The books don’t get read to death. They get thrown out if not borrowed. This is just another step in the pointless waste of the library system. The classics the tax payers gave to schools for the millennium didn’t last long at all before they were gone, because who would borrow a boring old classic?
Philip Pullman is right in his concern. The question is if the kind of place he is trying to save disappeared a long time ago?