SLAV Connects is a blog by the School Libraries Association of Victoria (SLAV), formerly named Bright Ideas when a collaboration between SLAV and the State Library of Victoria (SLV). Its aim is to share news from the Association and to encourage teacher librarians, librarians, school library staff, educators and all interested persons to actively engage with the school libraries, to share tools and experiences; to network on a global scale; and to embrace dynamic teaching and learning opportunities.
For anyone studying or interested in the World Cup, the BBC has produced a five minute video of the history of soccer in South Africa. The video is available to viewers in Australia (not always the case with BBC videos).
Kim Baker, the Programme Executive: Document Supply and Information Services at the National Library of South Africa says “Some nice publicity showing the worth of libraries and how they can add value to sport!”
Thanks to Helen Boelens for this link.
Free Soccer Game
For soccer fans comes the free game Can I play this at home? Ideal for schools, this site uses geography, maths and language tasks to help players progress through the soccer game. Select your team and you’re away. It is actually a lot of fun.
Thanks to Greg Pallis for submitting this resource.
Although this video, developed by “Mal Booth, Sophie McDonald and Belinda Tiffen from the University of Technology Sydney” is more appropriate to academic and public libraries, there may be some interesting analogies and lessons for schools libraries.
What do you think about what the video has to say about how our way of working might look in 2015?
This document, from the United States’ Institute of Museum and Library Services (“the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute’s mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas”) provides important information about helping library users develop 21st century skills.
Although primarily developed for public libraries, there is much that can be transferred to school libraries. The website explains:
The Museums, Libraries, and 21st Century Skills initiative underscores the critical role our nation’s museums and libraries play in helping citizens build such 21st century skills as information, communications and technology literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, civic literacy, and global awareness.
And the following items seem to be exactly what many schools need to address:
Specifically, this work aims to help library and
• Envision the library/museum’s role in providing
lifelong learning experiences, specifically around
21st century skills;
• Inventory the 21st century skills and practices
currently in use by the library/museum;
• Identify goals for future operation and program
• Build awareness among policymakers and the
public about the unique value these institutions
provide to the nation’s learning systems.
Envision the library/museum’s role in providing lifelong learning experiences, specifically around 21st century skills;
Inventory the 21st century skills and practices currently in use by the library/museum;
Identify goals for future operation and program improvements;
Build awareness among policymakers and the public about the unique value these institutions provide to the nation’s learning systems.
A notable point from the document applies to all schools:
The need to enhance 21st century skills is a compelling national imperative. Built on a foundation of deep content mastery, these skills are the new workforce requirements for maintaining U.S. global competitiveness and ensuring each person’s personal and professional success.
If you are addressing, or wanting your school to address the development of 21st century skills, this document is a good starting point.
Helen Boelens kindly forwarded this information to Bright Ideas:
Here is information provided by IFLA (The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions ) via Karen Usher, who is the secretary of the IFLA – School Libraries and Resource Centers Section about how (school) librarians can help colleagues in Haiti.
On behalf of ANCBS, Karl von Habsburg, President, sends this message:
The Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield (ANCBS) wants to help the people of Haiti.
The earthquake in Haiti of 12th January has caused an enormous devastation. The amount of people that lost their lives is beyond imagination. At the moment basic humanitarian aid and the rebuilding of a functioning infrastructure is crucial.
However, as soon as the situation in Haiti has become more stable, Blue Shield wants to help to enable experts from all over the world to support their Haitian colleagues in assessing the damage to the cultural heritage and therefore to the identity of their country. Subsequently, Blue Shield wants to support recovery, restoration and repair measures necessary to rebuild libraries, archives, museums, monuments and sites.
An important task of ANCBS is to coordinate information. ANCBS needs to know who and where the experts are. ANCBS therefore calls upon archivists, restorers, curators, librarians, architects and other experts to register online as a volunteer.
ANCBS wants to be able to bring experts in contact with those organizations that will send missions to Haiti, and make sure that volunteers will be informed about the situation in Haiti.
Please join Blue Shield to help your Haitian colleagues.
What should libraries do to become relevant in the digital age?
They can’t survive as community-funded repositories for books that individuals don’t want to own (or for reference books we can’t afford to own.) More librarians are telling me (unhappily) that the number one thing they deliver to their patrons is free DVD rentals. That’s not a long-term strategy, nor is it particularly an uplifting use of our tax dollars.
Here’s my proposal: train people to take intellectual initiative.
Once again, the net turns things upside down. The information is free now. No need to pool tax money to buy reference books. What we need to spend the money on are leaders, sherpas and teachers who will push everyone from kids to seniors to get very aggressive in finding and using information and in connecting with and leading others.
Clearly we haven’t marketed our own message effectively. Today’s leading expert on marketing, and many others, need to know that job one, for most of us (I HOPE), IS being:
leaders, sherpas and teachers who will push everyone from kids to seniors to get very aggressive in finding and using information and in connecting with and leading others.
Is Seth saying that we need librarians, but not traditional libraries?
We need to make sure that folks who matter get the memo that we are not about circulation alone and that circulation itself is happening online. (And that some of those reference books and ebooks are available–nearly invisibly–through library-funded databases.)
And that they get the memo that describes the many ways librarians address literacy and equity each and every day.
We haven’t done our job to market ourselves and our programs. People don’t know what they look like because we haven’t shared loudly enough.
It may also be that some libraries aren’t yet there.
In case you were sleeping, over the past two years, stuff happened. Big stuff. Stuff we should have led. I’ve been watching as other professionals in education grabbed turf we should have grabbed or tred together.
The game has changed dramatically. The changes we talk about are not bandwagons. They represent profound changes in the way we do business, the way we do libraries, the way we must educate.
Teacher librarians, as information and communication specialists must lead change in their buildings and districts or face irrelevancy.
Something Darwinian is underway. Adaptation is essential. And if we are to thrive, leadership is essential.
School library practice must adapt to complete shifts in the information and communication landscapes. Folks who believe that Web 2.0, or whatever we next call the read/write Web, will go away are hopelessly mistaken.
It keeps me up at night too – but to me it’s not will the librarians be in a position to be a logical choice, but rather will librarians grab the opportunity. Any librarian employed today IS in the position! They need to embrace a role that focuses on meeting people’s information needs through any and all media, systems, formats, and approaches.
Joyce helped me to see that information literacy is both using and producing information. Librarians – particularly those in schools – should be at the center of this: to ensure that students are information literate – to ensure that students are effective users and producers of information.
What we need are opportunistic librarians – using every interaction with kids, fellow teachers, parents, administrators and the public to PROVE that they are right at the center of the action – of making sure that every student is super-skilled in information seeking, use, production, and evaluation. And, also at the center of making sure that all students have access to resources, services, technologies, and networks.
You both instinctively know how to take advantage of opportunities. You see them everywhere. That’s what we need to help the librarians to see and then to know what to do with them. . .
The slow but steady attrition in the school library field is no accident. It’s not because “they don’t understand us.” It’s not because “we haven’t gotten the message out.” It’s because many programs aren’t delivering.
Many of you are out there leading change.
The revolution can happen. And it can happen in our blogs, through our tweets, in our libraries.
It will not happen if we are asleep at the wheel. It will not happen if we do not assume responsibility for our own retooling.
I know many of you are out there are working hard.
But it is not about working hard. It is about working smart. It is about marketing. It is about redefining. Before it is too late. This is the year.
Seth Godin’s post was generally addressing public libraries, but all librarians can take note and possibly take offence. As Dr Valenza states, stuff is happening. This blog is evidence of some of the kinds of wonderful stuff that is happening in school, public and academic libraries in Australia and around the world. This blog is evidence that there are many wonderful librarians and teacher librarians who have embraced change and developed what could only have been dreamed of a few years ago. The Twitter community to which I belong and contribute to is a testament to the incredibly committed professionals that are librarians and teacher librarians. They contribute so much, that I often worry that they are not having holidays, not having weekends and not having enough downtime to recover from their hectic work and personal lives. This cohort of hardworking and sharing professionals blows my mind. And many of them are from Australia. We may be only a percentage of educators, librarians and teacher librarians, but hour after hour, day after day, we are proving Seth Godin wrong. However, we need everyone to jump on board and help define the future of libraries. Be a part of the change. Drive the change. Make a difference. Enjoy the change. Enjoy the challenge. Learn. Share. Listen. Talk. Lead.
Of course to be able to implement change effectively, we need appropriate staffing and budgets in public and school libraries. Although many Web 2.0 tools are free, we need appropriately qualified and trained library staff to investigate, develop and maintain any sites that are relevant and useful to their students and staff.
Buffy Hamilton, author of the Unquiet Librarian blog has added her thoughts and collated a list of other bloggers (including our own brilliant Jenny Luca) who have responded to Seth Godin’s post.
Seth Godin, thinker, social media expert, and marketing guru, set off a firestorm yesterday with his post, “The Future of Libraries.” While the post is directed toward public libraries, librarians from all walks of life jumped in with their responses:
Apple is set to announce their next big thing on January 26 (now ‘slated’ for January 27). Variously called the iSlate, the iGuide or generically called ‘the tablet’, rumours abound what it will do precisely, but many writers seem to agree that it will at least do for books what the iPod did for music. However, a colour eReader with internet access, video, etc. is seen as being just the beginning. As Apple get so many things oh so right, what more can we expect? A few experts reveal their thoughts.
When it comes to the launch of new and exciting techno-gadgets, I–and perhaps, we all–have been spoiled by Apple. Yes, they’ve gotten it wrong on occasion, but so often, they get it so right. They’ve repeatedly raised the bar, and our expectations. Perhaps that’s why, when I first saw the unauthorized, leaked images of Amazon’s first Kindle on the web all those years ago, I thought surely they were the creation of an internet ne’er-do-well. I laughed, because I thought I got the joke. “Yeah!” I said. “That DOES look like it’s from 1980! Good one, you internet pranksters you.”
But so it was.
In the days of high-speed streaming video, 5-second song downloads, 30″ computer monitors, and a nation of media addicts, Amazon released this.
Amazon’s Kindle (along with all the other faux-paper e-ink readers) ignores the fact that all media is evolving–books included. These e-ink readers are nothing more than a cautious step between the old and the new. They’re too married to the formatting and failures of their paper predecessors to take full advantage of what’s possible. They’ll never be as good as paperbacks for quiet, un-powered reading. And they’ll never be as good as computers for multimedia content. Why offer a device that offers a poor version of two experiences?
By releasing an e-reader so hopelessly tied to the paper, Amazon gave Apple an opening to provide something better. If the latest swirl of rumors is true and Apple plans to release a tablet computer, or iSlate, early next year, you can bet your life it will put the Kindle to shame when it comes to digital content delivery. Any e-ink device simply will not be able to compete. I’m not going to reveal any names, but I have it on very good authority, for example, that–unlike the Kindle–the new Apple tablet will, indeed, have a color screen. Might it also … play video?! (Please pardon the sarcasm.)
Book publishers are feverishly searching for the best ways to pour their content into the new digital stream. And rightly so. I’ve argued here in the past that book publishers, as producers of a continuous stream of high-quality and edited content, are perfectly suited to capitalize on the new opportunities presented by the digital content revolution. Selling e-books has long been the most accepted method–and though I have my reservations–I wouldn’t necessarily disagree. I would argue, however, that the best e-books are certainly not Kindle e-books.
Book content should no longer be imprisoned by the limitations of paper. Digital books should include author interviews, instructional videos, pop-up definitions of esoteric terms, instant foreign translations, optional soundtracks, links to helpful web sites, and anything else publishers and authors can dream up to increase the value and effectiveness of their content.
What the rumored Apple iSlate represents for publishers and e-book readers is the ability to break free from the limitations of paper–which were so dutifully copied by Amazon and Sony–and provide book content to readers on a portable device with a screen big enough to be reasonable for reading long-form content.
I understand the arguments for the e-ink format: the non-back-lit screen is easy on the eyes, easy on battery life, etc. And since we spend upwards of ten hours a day staring at glaring screens–whether 30″ wide or glowing in your pocket– I can understand the argument for not wanting to read the latest vampire novel off yet another backlit screen. When I desire such a quiet reading experience I pick up the paperback. It is still the best at what it does. No electronic reader could ever truly duplicate the experience of reading off paper. So why try? When building a digital reader, build something different. Build something that offers book readers new material–and publishers a new revenue stream. With the coming of the iSlate, it looks like Apple may have finally done just that.
Another former Apple executive who was there at the time said the tablets kept getting shelved at Apple because Mr. Jobs, whose incisive critiques are often memorable, asked, in essence, what they were good for besides surfing the Web in the bathroom.
Here’s the thimbleful of information I have heard regarding The Tablet (none of which has changed in six months): The Tablet project is real, it has you-know-who’s considerable undivided attention, and everyone working on it has dropped off the map. I don’t know anyone who works at Apple who doubts these things; nor do I know anyone at Apple who knows a whit more. I don’t know anyone who’s seen the hardware or the software, nor even anyone who knows someone else who has seen the hardware or software.
The cone of silence surrounding the project is, so far as I can tell, complete.1
The situation is uncannily similar to the run-up preceding the debut of the original iPhone in January 2007, including many of the same engineers and software teams at Apple — such as those who built the iPhone Mail, Calendar, and Safari apps — disappearing into a black hole. The iPhone remained a secret until Steve Jobs took it out of his jeans pocket on stage at Macworld Expo. All of which is to say that what follows is my conjecture. Pure punditry, not one of those smarmy “predictions” where I know full well in advance what’s going to happen.
I have a thousand questions about The Tablet’s design. What size is it? There’s a big difference between, say, 7- and 10-inch displays. How do you type on it? With all your fingers, like a laptop keyboard? Or like an iPhone, with only your thumbs? If you’re supposed to watch video on it, how do you prop it up? Holding it in your hands? Flat on a table seems like the wrong angle entirely; but a fold-out “arm” to prop it up, à la a picture frame, seems clumsy and inelegant. If it’s just a touchscreen tablet, how do you protect the screen while carrying it around? If it folds up somehow, how is it not just a laptop — why not put a hardware keyboard on the part that folds up to cover the display? (Everyone I know at Apple refers to it as “The Tablet”, but so far as I can tell, that’s because that’s what everyone calls it, not because anyone knows that it actually even is, physically, a tablet. And “The Tablet” most certainly is not the product name.) If it’s too big to fit in a pants pocket, how are you supposed to carry it around? And but if it doesfit in a pants pocket, how is it bigger enough than an iPod Touch to justify existing? And so on.
But there’s one question at the top of the list, the answer to which is the key to answering every other question. That question is this: If you already have an iPhone and a MacBook; why would you want this?
The epigraph I used to start this piece — the bit about Steve Jobs demanding that a tablet be useful for more than just reading on the can — indicates that Apple will release nothing without such an answer. I agree that such an answer is essential.
Successful new gadgets always seem to occupy a clearly defined place alongside, or replacing, existing devices. The Flip filled a previously empty niche for a small, cheap, simple video camera. How was the iPod better than existing portable music players? It fit 1,000 songs in your pocket, with a fun interface that let you find them easily. Why buy an iPhone to replace your existing mobile phone? Because there was a clear need for a modern handheld general-purpose computer.
But how much room is there between an iPhone (or iPod Touch) and a MacBook (or other laptop computer, running Windows or Linux or whatever)? What’s the argument for owning all three?
“I’d use it on the couch and lying in bed” is not a good answer. You can already use your iPhone orMacBook on the couch and in bed. It strikes me as foolish to market a multi-hundred-dollar device that people are expected to leave on their coffee table.
“It’s a Kindle killer” is not a good answer. If you think Apple is making a dedicated device for reading e-books and articles, you’re thinking too small. As profoundly reticent as Steve Jobs is regarding future Apple products, when he does speak, he’s often surprisingly revealing. David Pogue asked him about the Kindle a few months ago:
A couple of years ago, pre-Kindle, Mr. Jobs expressed his doubts that e-readers were ready for prime time. So today, I asked if his opinions have changed.
“I’m sure there will always be dedicated devices, and they may have a few advantages in doing just one thing,” he said. “But I think the general-purpose devices will win the day. Because I think people just probably aren’t willing to pay for a dedicated device.”
He said that Apple doesn’t see e-books as a big market at this point, and pointed out that Amazon.com, for example, doesn’t ever say how many Kindles it sells. “Usually, if they sell a lot of something, you want to tell everybody.”
“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”
One could reasonably argue that the “people don’t read” comment, taken at face value, suggests that Apple has no interest in that market, period.
I, however, would square the two remarks as follows: Not enough people read to make it worth creating a dedicated device that is to reading what the original iPod was to music. (Everyone, for practical definitions of “everyone”, listens to music.) But e-reading as one aspect among several for a general-purpose computing device — well, that’s something else entirely.
The pre-Touch iPod was (and remains) an enormous success. It changed the music industry and rejuvenated Apple. But it was and remains a dedicated device; originally focused on audio, now capable of the sibling feature of video.
The iPhone, on the other hand, was conceived and has flourished as a general-purpose handheld computing platform. It was not introduced as such publicly, and is not pitched as such in Apple’s marketing, but clearly that’s what it is. The iPhone was described by Jobs in his on-stage introduction as three devices in one: “a widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone, a breakthrough Internet communicator”. Thus, it was clear what people would want to do with it: watch videos, listen to music, make phone calls, surf the web, do email.
The way Apple made one device that did a credible job of all these widely-varying features was by making it a general-purpose computer with minimal specificity in the hardware and maximal specificity in the software. And, now, through the App Store and third-party developers, it does much more: serving as everything from a game player to a medical device.
Do I think The Tablet is an e-reader? A video player? A web browser? A document viewer? It’s not a matter of or but rather and. I say it is all of these things. It’s a computer.
And so in answer to my central question, regarding why buy The Tablet if you already have an iPhone and a MacBook, my best guess is that ultimately, The Tablet is something you’ll buy insteadof a MacBook.
I say they’re swinging big — redefining the experience of personal computing.
It will not be pitched as such by Apple. It will be defined by three or four of its built-in primary apps. But long-term, big-picture? It will be to the MacBook what the Macintosh was to the Apple II.
I am not predicting that Apple is phasing out the Mac. (On the contrary, I’ve heard that Mac OS X 10.7 is on pace for a developer release at WWDC in June.) Like all Apple products, The Tablet will do less than we expect but the things it does do, it will do insanely well. It will offer a fraction of the functionality of a MacBook — but that fraction will be way more fun. The same Asperger-y critics who dismissed the iPhone will focus on all that The Tablet doesn’tdo and declare that this time, Apple really has f*$ked up but good. The rest of us will get in line to buy one.
The Mac is, and will remain, Apple’s answer to what you use to do everything.
The Tablet, I say, is going to be Apple’s new answer to what you use for personal portable general computing.
Put another way, let’s say instead of a MacBook and an iPhone, you’ve got an iMac and an iPhone, but you also want a portable secondary computer. Today, that portable from Apple (portable as opposed to the iPhone’s mobile) is a MacBook. With The Tablet, you’ll have the option of a device that will more closely resemble the iPhone than the iMac in terms of concept and the degree of technical abstraction.
The Tablet OS
The original 1984 Mac didn’t abstract away the computer — it made the computer itself elegant, simple, and understandable. Very, very little was hidden from the typical user. Mac OS X is vastly more complex technically and conceptually, as it must be due to the vastly increased complexity and capability of today’s hardware. But Mac OS X has always tried to have it both ways: a veneer of simplicity that doesn’t cover the entire surface of the system. The user-exposed file system is a prime example. On the 1984 Mac, the entire file system was exposed, but the entire file system fit on a 400 KB floppy disk. On Mac OS X, the /System/Library/folder, one of many exposed fiddly sections of the file system browsable in the Finder, contains over 90,000 items, not one of which a typical user should ever need to see or touch.
The iPhone OS offers a complete computing abstraction. Under the hood, it’s just as complex as Mac OS X. On the surface, though, it is even more simple and elegant than the original Mac. No technical complexity is exposed. Hierarchyis minimized. It relegates the file system to a developer-level technology rather than a user-level technology. (Did you know the file system on iPhonesis case sensitive?)
But so while I think The Tablet’s OS will be like the iPhone OS, I don’t think it will be the iPhone OS. Carved from the same OS X core, yes, but with a new bespoke UI designed to be just right for The Tablet’s form factor, whatever that form factor will be.
One common prediction I disagree with is that The Tablet will simply be more or less an iPod Touch with a much bigger display. But in the same way that it made no sense for Apple to design the iPhone OS to run Mac software, it makes little sense for a device with a 7-inch (let alone larger) display to run software designed for a 3.5-inch display.
The iPhone OS user interface was not designed in the abstract. It’s entirely about real-world usability, and very much designed specifically around the physical size of the device itself. The size and spacing of tappable targets are designed with the size of human thumb- and fingertips in mind. More importantly, the whole thing is designed so that it can be used one-handed. Even an adult with relatively small hands can go from one corner to the other with their thumb, holding the iPhone in one hand.
Mac OS X apps couldn’t run on an iPhone display because they simply wouldn’t fit, and the parts that did fit would contain buttons and other UI elements that were far too small to be used. Running iPhone software on a much larger display presents the opposite problem: it’s not that the UI couldn’t be scaled to fill the screen, it’s that it would be a waste to do so.
A 7-inch display isn’t twice the size of an iPhone’s, it’s fourtimes bigger in surface area. I’m not sure even Shaquille O’Neal could hold a 7-inch iPod Touch in one hand and swipe from corner to corner with his thumb. Why would Apple stretch a UI designed to afford for one-handed use on 3.5-inch displays to cover a 7-inch (or larger) display that couldn’t possibly be used one-handed? If Apple’s starting with a hardware size where the iPhone OS can’t be used one-handed, then trust me, they’re designing a new interaction model.
Apple is not in the business of making monolithic OSes that they cram down your throat on as many widely-varying devices as possible. Apple is in the business of making complete products, for which they craft derivative OSes to fit each product. There is a shared core OS. There is not a shared core UI.2
If you’re thinking The Tablet is just a big iPhone, or just Apple’s take on the e-reader, or just a media player, or just anything, I say you’re thinking too small — the equivalent of thinking that the iPhone was going to be just a click wheel iPod that made phone calls. I think The Tablet is nothing short of Apple’s reconception of personal computing.
The BBC have also reported that Apple shares have risen on speculation about the new platform and that Apple has booked the Yerba Buena Centre in San Francisco for 26 January (where the iPhone was launched).
Subject to copyright, can you imagine being able to read Andre Agassi’s autobiography Open that has key matches mentioned in the text embedded into the book? (Such as the 1990 French Open Final where he lost because he was so concerned his wig was about to fall off??)
How about reading Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk where he talks about a film clip where he dances like a robot (and the next day children around the world were imitating him).
Not being aware of that song and clip makes the text a little meaningless, but being able to see the clip makes the text so much more meaningful.
What does this mean for libraries, schools and school libraries? Is it the much heralded death-knell for books? Perhaps people will actually read more books when access is easier. However, access to eBooks means that the reader needs some type of machine to read them. Does this mean that access will actually be more difficult for many people due to cost? Will libraries, schools and school libraries provide these eReaders for patrons and students to help bridge the divide? Who would receive the machines? How would that be decided? Will libraries provide access to eBooks via their websites, much like the Overdrive system used by Yarra Plenty Regional Library and Brisbane Libraries that provides online access to mp3 audio books and eBooks? To overcome copyright issues, the mp3s that are downloaded by users are only available on the user’s machine for the normal loan period (say, three weeks) and then it becomes available for another user. Can you see libraries providing this service? What would the ramifications be for those of us in schools? Would the library become purely a service and a state of mind rather than an actual place? If so, what then happens to the community services that libraries provide?
There is certainly much to ponder here for publishers, booksellers and library staff. I would love any comments and thoughts. One thing is certain, more will become clearer once Apple make their announcement in a few weeks. At present, much of this is purely speculation. However, it seems to be an exciting and challenging time for those in the book industry.
Reading in the school library. Photograph: Graham Turner
A high-profile group of children’s authors, publishers, teachers and librarians is calling on the government to make school libraries statutory. Signatories to a petition to Number 10 include Philip Pullman, Horrid Henry creator Francesca Simon and former children’s laureate Michael Rosen, as well as the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers Christine Blower, Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, top children’s publishers and the directors of a raft of youth library associations.
The campaign’s supporters, who also include the Carnegie medal winners Mal Peet and Beverley Naidoo, are concerned that while prisoners have the statutory right to a library, schoolchildren do not, and they believe it is essential that children get the habit of reading for pleasure. “[We] wholeheartedly support the right of prisoners to a library. It can be part of the process of rehabilitation through education. We are concerned however that school students do not have the same right. Research indicates that many young people who offend have low literacy levels,” they say in a letter that will be sent to secretary of state for children, schools and families Ed Balls this evening by the campaign’s head, the twice Carnegie-shortlisted author Alan Gibbons.
Only half of all secondary schools have a full-time librarian, they say, and only 28% have a qualified librarian. “Sadly, some of our schools still lack adequate library provision,” they write. “It would not be expensive to rectify this situation, even in these difficult times. The social costs of poor literacy are significant.”
Gibbons said this morning that the petition was only the start of a concerted campaign to make school libraries statutory. “When it’s just the book world, particularly if it’s just libraries, the government feels less pressure than if it is a broad cultural movement supporting literacy,” he said. “That’s why I’ve been working on publishers, teaching professionals and public service unions.”
Last November Pullman told a comprehensive school in Chesterfield that it would become “a byword for philistinism and ignorance” if it went ahead with plans to close its school library. Since then, Gibbons said, there have been “worrying indications” that more school libraries are likely to close. “It’s nibbling at the edges at the moment but the signs are there that they are being cut down,” he said. “We want to at least get the discussion going about how to deal with it.”
The petition itself – which calls on the government “to accept in principle that it will make school libraries, run by properly qualified staff, statutory” – will run until December, but by the end of the summer school term Gibbons hopes to have consolidated the support of the book world and to have started soliciting support from community figures, faith groups and celebrities within the wider community.
Harry Potter creator JK Rowling, he added, was top of his list. “We don’t want to stand on the sidelines – we want to engage with government,” he said.