Today children across Scotland will be celebrating World Book Day. Ironically, residents of Mull and Iona face a future where access for most to library books will effectively be removed.
The community of the Isles of Mull and Iona is taking action to reverse the cuts to the School Library Service and the removal of the mobile library service announced by Councillor Dick Walsh on 11th February.
The Mull and Iona Libraries Action Group [MILAG] say:
‘The wider community has rallied round to support Tobermory High School Parent Council with a campaign to bring together objectors into a cohesive force for change.
‘What has happened to the rights of islanders to access library facilities?
‘Where do the mobile library readers go to get library books?
‘Mull and Iona are documented as being in the worst 3% of Scottish post-codes for the measure of geographic isolation. Removal of this service will increase already high levels of social exclusion and disproportionally affect many but especially the elderly.
‘Mull resident Ann Eastwood commented “I live in a remote part of the island and only leave the house once a week to go shopping and combine this with a monthly trip to the wonderful mobile library service. We will greatly miss meeting our librarian and the other folk who turn out for a chat and, importantly, to get more library books.”
‘At present it is unclear how the changes will affect the High School library.
‘Parents and students fear the consequences of losing a qualified school librarian, whose role extends way beyond the stamping of books, with, as has been suggested, replacement by a lower grade post.
‘There is no public library on the Isle of Mull. There is a possible proposal that the High School library can be run by an Argyll and Bute funded library assistant. This would be available to the wider community but only on a term time/ school hours basis. Opening the school library to the wider public will be of little use if a visit involves a 2 or 4 hour round trip with infrequent or no access to public transport or you are a primary school child. This is also without considering the logistical and space restraints of adding additional book stocks to an existing, well resourced and heavily used school teaching and learning area.
‘Retired Head teacher Caroline Wood comments “ Over a long and varied career I have experienced how motivational the access to a changing range of books is to the development of pupils literacy and learning and, as they get older, access to a knowledgeable and qualified librarian. Cutting library services on the island as agreed by the council seems to fly in the face of councillors laudable statement to maintain funding for the youngest and vulnerable members of our community.”
‘In effect the cuts present Mull and Iona with a double whammy. Islands which are already fighting hard to overcome issues of rural disadvantage and lack of access to services.
‘MILAG is investigating what the legal requirement is for local authorities to provide libraries and has launched a petition to seek suspension of the orders to remove the School Librarian post and the mobile library service. It’s simply all about equality education and supporting a fragile island infrastructure.
‘Did you know”, Matilda said suddenly, “that the heart of a mouse beats at the rate of six hundred and fifty times a second?” I did not,” Miss Honey said smiling. “How absolutely fascinating. Where did you read that?” In a book from the library,” Matilda said. “And that means it goes so fast that you can’t even hear the separate beats. It must sound like a buzz.” It must,” Miss Honey said.’ ― [Roald Dahl, Matilda]’