As more and more school librarians come under threat from budget cuts, here are some details of a campaign in East Ayrshire. This is not by any means a definitive action plan, and certainly gives no guarantee of success. However, perhaps some of these pointers may help fellow professionals facing similar pressures.
East Ayrshire Council has nine secondary schools; each has a permanent full time qualified or chartered librarian in post (apart from one school, where the post has been vacant for over two years). In November 2010, as part of the council's 2011/12 budget proposals, it was announced that the nine positions would be replaced by two chartered librarians and seven unqualified term-time library assistants, to produce a saving of 60,000 [pounds sterling] p.a. Overall, the council had to save 7.7 [pounds sterling] million, and this proposal was one of over 50 affecting almost every area of the council's activities. Those librarians who did not secure one of the two new librarian's posts, or felt unwilling to apply for one of the seven library assistant posts, would be offered redeployment within other council departments. Early retirement was also an option for some, but not all. The salary scale of the two new positions was to be similar to the current librarians' salary, but those employees switching to term time library assistant level could look forward to a reduction in salary of approximately 10,000 [pounds sterling] pa.
East Ayrshire Council set up a two month consultation period through December and January, allowing all interested parties and indeed, the general public, to comment by letter, email or using an online feedback form. Anonymous comments would be discounted, but there was no requirement to live or work in the area to qualify as a valid contributor.
As can be imagined, hastily convened meetings were arranged between the eight librarians, to which union representatives were invited, to discuss the situation, and available options. It was decided that for maximum impact, each would write their own personal submission to the council. A brief, joint letter was produced from the group en masse, but each librarian felt they had different areas they wished to highlight. Each submission, therefore, was very much a personal statement, made relevant to the particular school served by each librarian. Some submissions took the form of a diary, highlighting exactly what the responsibilities of each librarian are; others used more academic research to illustrate the importance of a qualified school librarian to the well-being and relevance of a school. Some concentrated on the demands of Curriculum for Excellence, the Scottish Government's new ethos of literacy, numeracy, health and well-being.
Most librarians sent their individual submissions to the Chief Executive of the council, with copies for the Executive Director of Education and Social Services. Some copies went to all 32 elected representatives of the council, and to other interested bodies, such as Parent, Student and Community Councils. It also became very apparent that most local councillors have very little knowledge of the...