CONCERNS have been raised about the impact of removing librarians from school due to noise levels, disruption and children being left to police their own peers.

Scottish Borders Council is currently running a pilot scheme at Galashiels, Peebles and Kelso high schools, which has seen pupils and volunteers replacing librarians.

At a meeting of Scottish Borders Council on Wednesday June 26, SNP councillor Andy Anderson, who represents Galashiels, told the chamber that the experience of pupils at Galashiels Academy has not been positive. 

He asked members of the ruling Tory/Independent coalition: “We are about a year down the line in the pilot of librarian-less school libraries.

“What lessons have been learned from this from the schools taking part and how is this informing the future of our school libraries?”

East Berwickshire councillor Carol Hamilton, who acts as the executive’s member for children and young people, said: “The pilot in three high schools started in October 2018. An interim evaluation took place in December 2018 with minor changes being implemented in January 2019 to address some minor issues.

“A more detailed evaluation was conducted in April 2019 which provided useful feedback from students, staff and parents from all nine high schools. 

“The vast majority of respondents highlighted the importance of having access to a library for reading, digital, research and study. 

“The feedback has been analysed and options for realising the decision of previous council to identify savings is ongoing. 

“It will also be critical to ensure that future library provision needs to be equitable across the authority.”

To which councillor Anderson: “For Galashiels Academy this has not been a good experience. The school has reported to the parent council that the noise levels in the library has at times been disruptive to other library users and to nearby classes, and excessive litter has been left in the library.

“Despite a self-service system that is aimed to be straightforward to operate, books are not finding their way to their correct place in the library once they have been returned. 

“S6 pupils have been tasked throughout the year to keep the library running, but they also have their own studies and other activities that they volunteer for. 

“The former library service provision has in effect been replaced with a service run by pupils with little or no training, who should not be left to police their peers.

“The perception is that this is merely another cost-cutting exercise by Scottish Borders council with little or no obvious benefit to the pupils. 

“This experience has been similar in Eyemouth, in the member’s own ward, and has been backed up by a detailed letter from the chair of Eyemouth Parent Council sent to her and other councillors. 

“This backs up the experiences at Galashiels Academy. Dare I say it, there appears to have been a lack of ‘inspired learning’ in this process.

“Surely you must agree that it is time to abandon this ill-conceived pilot and get our school libraries back to being fully functional centres for study and learning for the benefit of our pupils.”

In response, councillor Hamilton acknowledged that there are issues with the scheme at Galashiels Academy: “Last night I went to Galashiels to watch their production of High School Musical and I did speak to the parent chair, and I am aware of the issues and we are addressing them. 

“There are still a report to come about the libraries and we’re having to look at each library as each library is different in terms of its layout, and the building. 

“Some schools are looking a different service from their schools so if there is anything further I’ll come back to you.”