Cutting libraries will increase poverty and inequality, says UNISON Scotland

Date: Saturday 6 February 2016

On National Libraries Day (6 February 2016), UNISON is warning that more local government cuts will have a drastic impact on libraries across Scotland, decreasing opportunities for all, and increasing poverty and inequality.

Library services have been undergoing massive change, yet staff numbers have been going down, buildings are closing, opening hours are reducing and services are being cut.

UNISON recent report, ‘Read it and weep’  raised the concerns of library staff across Scotland  who are simultaneously being expected to expand services while coping with front line cuts.  The report is based on qualitative research from UNISON members working across Scotland’s libraries, highlighting the impact of the cuts.

UNISON also recently highlighted cuts to school libraries, in a submission to the Scottish parliament petitions committee.  UNISON uncovered evidence of a consistent pattern of school library services being a soft target to meet budget cuts. School libraries are vital for young people’s learning and have a central role in equipping our younger people from disadvantaged backgrounds for the digital age; recent research has shown that  children struggle to discriminate between facts, fiction and paid for product placement online. Libraries are especially useful to children with no access to internet at home.

Gray Allan, UNISON Scotland libraries spokesperson said,

‘Cutting library budgets is another way of entrenching inequalities. Libraries are a way that poorer families get access to the same breadth of reading materials as everyone else. And libraries are so much more than books. They provide information services for people of all backgrounds, they organise kids clubs and hubs for older people, computer terminals for those with no access to the internet can use to find job vacancies. And the support of skilled librarians to help you find the information you need.

‘Fully resourced libraries support education, the economy and play an important role in bringing equality.  Despite knowing this we have allowed community and school libraries to be run down to skeleton services across Scotland. They are seen as a soft touch and we need to stand up for libraries and the work they do to tackle poverty and inequality.’

– UNISON is the biggest trade union in Scotland, and represents librarians in the community, schools, further education and higher education and in the NHS

– UNISON has made a submission in support of School Libraries Petition PE 1581 to the Scottish Parliament Public Petitions Committee Dec 2015 :

– UNISON report ‘Read it and Weep’ Sept 2015:

Cuts in school libraries include North and South Lanarkshire, East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire, Glasgow, East Ayrshire and South Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Fife and Shetland.

  • South Lanarkshire proposals include reducing school library staffing by 15%
  • North Lanarkshire is now proposing to review the school librarian service for a second time with the reduction of 2 FTE School Library Resource Manager posts. The last review saw all schools with pupil roll under 700 reduce librarian numbers to 0.7 FTE librarian. All new staff now are only employed term time. The Council has also removed the need for library staff to have professional library qualifications.
  • East Renfrewshire Council is proposing moving from 1 fully qualified librarian from each of its high schools (7) to the FTE of 3.5. The original plans to use senior pupils to staff the library appear to have been dropped due to public opposition.
  • Glasgow has reduced the school librarian service to 0.5 posts per school.
  • Renfrewshire now has only 7 librarians across 11 schools.
  • East Ayrshire has replaced 3 librarians with 3 library assistants. Means 9 secondary schools are now covered by 5 librarians and 4 library assistants.
  • South Ayrshire has, l replaced a number of librarians with library assistants.
  • In Dumfries and Galloway when the librarian retired from Dumfries Academy responsibility for the library was given to the Head of English. Lockerbie Academy also currently without a librarian and Annan Academy have reduced the hours to 20 per week
  • Fife  – school librarians who have retired have been replaced with library assistants
  • Shetland, where the school library service has always been integrated with the public library service, there have been cuts to school library book budgets of 20-30% over the last four years. While staff numbers have remained the same the working hours of staff have been cut from 8 FTE to 5.93 FTE.

UNISON Contacts
Gray Allan, Falkirk Council Branch Secretary (and a librarian), on 07710 528 533,
Danny Phillips, communications officer, 07944 664 110