A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Thanks to Dawn Endico on Flickr for the beautiful book picture.
According to my mum, I only had one major temper tantrum as a child and it was over a library book. It seems that regardless of the fact that the book belonged to the library and I was only allowed to borrow it, I had no intention of giving the book back. Struggles ensued, feet were stamped, it was messy… I forget the details. But I do remember having to get special permission to be issued with an adult library ticket at a ridiculously young age because I had read and re-read all the books in the children’s section. The library played an enormous part in my childhood and I can clearly remember the joyous feeling of opening up the front cover to reveal a blank ticket in the sleeve… the book was to be mine first.
This is one of the reasons why I want to talk to you today about the Campaign for the Book. This campaign was started by Alan Gibbons, a prize winning author for children and young adults. I want to quote you a bit from this article in the Bookseller…
It started with a phone call. The Save the Libraries Campaign in Doncaster asked me to speak. On a hot July evening I addressed a packed upstairs room in the town, setting out the role reading had played in my life and offering my support.
The son of a farm labourer and a shop assistant, I was lucky enough to get hooked on books early. My love of reading took me to the University of Warwick, a career in teaching and now a second career as a children’s author. In this capacity I visit 150 schools and libraries a year and my lectures take me to Cyprus, Switzerland, China, France, Spain, Singapore, Bahrain and Brazil to name just a few of the more exciting destinations.
Two weeks after that meeting Helena Pielichaty and I addressed several hundred local people protesting at cuts to the library budget. I emailed many of my friends and colleagues in the book world and sent a statement to the Doncaster press. That’s when the horror stories started to pour in. There was the national expert on children’s literature, who had her pay cut by £7,000. There was the librarian whose head teacher closed the library and axed her job. There was the school library that boxed up all the books and turned the room into an ICT suite.
It doesn’t take much Googling to come up with more stories of the effects of the budget cuts to our school library services, for example from The Times Higher Education…
What is called “efficiency savings” is achieved through the loss of librarians’ jobs, reduced access to resources by teachers, reduced acquisition of stock and the “delay” in the development of online facilities. These deletions and closures will “save” £98,000 knowing that there will be “reduction in service”. For small schools, the Resource Centre has supplemented local collections, using the expertise of SLS staff to develop materials and foster a love of reading. For specialist needs, such as borrowing books for students with dyslexia and developing a commitment to reading through the Highland Book Awards, this single decision to “save” £98,000 will have consequences on reading and writing for a generation. For those homes without books, let alone broadband, library resources are crucial to disadvantaged students in education. But even an expansive personal library and internet connection cannot teach information literacy.
Alan Gibbons, on his blog has collated countless examples of job cuts, funding cuts and lack of resources for school Libraries. I was horrified to read that twenty five councils in the UK spend less than 1% of their total library funding on children’s books. Spending on books has reduced this year for the third year in a row, but spending on DVD’s has increased. Thirty eight libraries were closed in 2008. And in Warwickshire there is even talk of Libraries being moved to supermarkets and staffed by volunteers in order to dramatically slash the cost of staffing them.
In the UK this year, it has been the National Year of Reading, a year in which we should be celebrating the book and promoting literature as much as we possibly can. A recent study showed that reading for pleasure has more impact on a child’s educational achievement than their family’s wealth or social class and yet when budgets are being cut it seems that books and the people who know about them are the first to go. It’s now thought that replacing books with computers is an acceptable course of action, that kids can just Google the answers to their questions without having to ask anyone… an all round cheaper solution. But what about social interraction? What about learning about researching properly, taking time to read all about your subject, not just typing in exactly what you need before copy and pasting the answer? This Virtual Eve (yes, I do look like that!*!) gives me the chills.
The remit of the Campaign for the Book is simple, and it’s aims are clearly outlined in its Charter which has been signed by many well known authors, (including Philip Pullman, Michael Rosen, Anne Fine, Jacqueline Wilson) and Publishers and Teachers and Librarians and Booksellers and… well, anyone who wants to get involved and help support the cause.
We, the signatories of this Charter commit ourselves to campaigning for the following:
1. The central place of reading for pleasure in society.
2. A proper balance of book provision and Information Technology in public and school libraries. We welcome the integration of new technologies but believe that they must not erode the key place of books and the need for a healthy and expanding book stock.
3. The defence of public libraries and librarians from attempts to cut spending in a ‘soft’ area.
4. An extension of the role of the school librarian and a recognition of the school library as a key engine of learning. All staff employed in school libraries to have access to appropriate and adequate support and training.
5. The recruitment of more school librarians. It is a national scandal that less than a third of secondary schools has a trained librarian.
6. The defence of the professional status of the public and school librarian. We oppose downgrading. In some places this has reduced librarians’ salaries by up to half.
7. A higher profile for reading for pleasure in schools, including shadowing book awards, inviting authors and illustrators to visit, developing school creative writing magazines.
8. To support the sustainability and future development of Schools Library Service provision nationally.
9. To promote a more positive reading culture in school, in which the reading of whole books is preferred to studying extracts alone
I’ve only given you the tip of the iceberg here. Much more can be found on Alan Gibbons Blog and just by a little light surfing you’ll find all sorts of information on the internet. Please try to support this cause as much as you can. Join the Facebook group, where you’ll find all the information you need about how the campaign is going and how you can get involved. Read about it, learn about what’s going on and tell people… any people that’ll listen (and if they don’t, then make them!). Show your support to your local library, especially within schools and hopefully if enough people know what the Government and Local Authorities are up to, they’ll have no choice but to start investing in the book.
Thank you for listening
VULPES LIBRIS has moved to Facebook.