Derbyshire's school library service could be axed

Derbyshire's school library service could be closed...Derbyshire's school library service could be closed...
Derbyshire's school library service could be closed...
Derbyshire's schools library service could be axed.

Derbyshire County Council has announced proposals to hold a six-week consultation on whether to close the Derbyshire and Derby City Schools Library Service and will make a decision today over the consultation plan.

The Schools Library Service (SLS), which is not connected to schools’ own libraries, provides support and resources to schools and educational establishments across the city and Derbyshire and is provided jointly by the city and county council.

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Derbyshire County Council leader and cabinet member for strategic leadership, culture and tourism, Councillor Barry Lewis, said: “It is important to recognise that this is not about school libraries. They are separate and are not affected by this proposal.

“We would not propose to close any service without a great deal of thought but in this case we believe the Schools Library Service will not be viable in the future.

“The number of schools and other educational providers using it is dwindling every year and academies are not buying in to it.

“If cabinet agrees, we will hold a six-week consultation and ask all schools and other organisations for their views before a final decision is made later next year.”

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Based in Derby, the SLS offers a number of educational resources on loan to schools. The main resources are artefacts, but the service also provides books, paintings, prints, posters, DVDs, CDs, textiles and resource packs. Other services it offers include a library advisory service and in-service training sessions for teachers.

According to the county council, the use of the SLS has been declining over a number of years with figures showing that in 2016/17 only 143 out of 425 Derbyshire schools and 42 out of 109 Derby City schools used the service – a total of 35 per cent of eligible schools. In 2015/16 the number was 37 per cent of eligible schools.

Over the past nine years the SLS’s income from loans and services has reduced by about 43 per cent.

In 2016/17 the funding received by the SLS was £176,000 (£149,000 from the county council and £27,000 from the city council).

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The money is currently taken from local authority maintained school budgets, but this amount is in decline due to the growth of academies, the county council said.

The county council said that with more changes to school budgets likely, the service would have to raise minimum changes to a ‘much greater level’.

Schools will be asked for their views on the consultation, which would run from January 1 2018 until February 11, if it gets the green light.