The Meadows Community School in Chesterfield has suddently found itself in the spotlight after the headteacher decided that its librarian was surplus to requirements. It was even reported in a French Language website!
Reported in France
This case was firt picked up by Alan Gibbons whoes blog I have mentioned before. Then Philip Pullman added his support, warning that the school would become a 'byword for philistinism and ignorance' and it was this that caused the quality papers to be interested. I can almost feel sorry for Lynn Asquith, the headteacher of the school. I am sure that many secondary schools have got rid of their librarian without being exposed to this sort of publicity - but the campaign for rela libraries has been growing in strength recently.
I also hope that the support from Pullman, Gibbons et al, welcome though it is, does not mean that school libraries and librarians become a sacred cow. Their role does need to be questioned and changes are probably desirable. The defence offered by the school was:
"This reflects reduced student numbers, decreasing use of the traditional library facility and a move towards the relocation and redistribution of non-fiction and fiction resources in the light of new developments in Virtual Learning Environment and interactive learning. The post of librarian will therefore no longer be required from January 2009... After reviewing this we feel that we are not removing a library from the school but changing the way it operates so that curriculum leaders will manage the resources from the internet. This is a model being adopted by many other schools and moves towards the best practice that is adopted in further and higher education institutions."
VLEs have been used in universities and colleges for some time and their introduction into schools is to be welcomed, but the idea that a VLE is about managing the resources from the internet is just wrong. VLEs manage carefully selected resources on an intranet. Some of these may be internet resources which have been carefully evaluated by the academics and information professionals but much of it will be electronic resources purchased by the library/learning centre. The VLE will also signpost print resources where relevant.
Young people have moved away from using books as their primary resource for schoolwork. The challenge facing schools and school librarians is to develop their information skills in the new environment and to encourage them to read as a rewarding activity in its own right.