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Author Neil Gaiman joins Edinburgh library fight

Writer Neil Gaiman has expressed  opposition to the plan to axe some school librarians. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Writer Neil Gaiman has expressed opposition to the plan to axe some school librarians. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

 

WORLD-RENOWNED writer Neil Gaiman has joined shocked parents and fellow novelists to slam plans to axe dedicated school librarians across the Capital.

It is understood around 12 librarian posts could be cut at the city’s 23 high schools as part of a cuts package aimed at saving around £400,000.

City chiefs want “part-time” librarians to be shared between secondaries.

Gaiman, 52 – author of The Sandman comics and fantasy novel Stardust – aired his concern by re-tweeting a message to his 1.9 million followers from award-winning writer Patrick Ness.

Ness, 42, whose novel The Crane Wife is published by city firm Canongate, tweeted: “Amazing how – after its billion pound tram – Edinburgh can try to cut school library spending with a straight face.”

The proposal has provoked outrage among school librarians and parents, who have branded it a “big fat cut” that will discourage kids from reading. There is particular anger over a suggestion the web is making librarians irrelevant and that their job can easily be replaced by teachers supporting “pupil access to the internet”.

School librarian Duncan Wright, who works in Edinburgh’s independent sector, said there was deep disappointment among council-employed counterparts, adding: “The proposal will have a massive impact and shows a complete lack of understanding of what the job of a school librarian actually involves.”

He warned that a raft of school services were at risk and said: “Basically, there seems to be this idea that with the internet, you don’t need librarians any more. I’d love to meet the teacher with the time and the expertise to coach pupils how to research properly.”

Parents and professional training bodies have also attacked the proposal.

Tina Woolnough, Edinburgh representative for the National Parent Forum for Scotland, said: “It’s the pastoral care dimension. The library has always been a safe haven for vulnerable children.

“There isn’t much school space where children can gather now and the library has a really important role to play.”

A spokesman for the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland said: “School libraries are unique in their ability to support teaching and learning and should be the central resource of the school – open every day and staffed by a professionally trained librarian.”

Education chiefs stressed that a consultation on the budget proposals was still ongoing. Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “Publishing our draft budget months in advance gives the public an opportunity to tell us what is important to them and help shape the high quality public services that will improve the lives of the city’s residents.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com

 

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