In the past week For Agyll published information that, in the current straitened budgetary circumstances, Councillors in the current administration of Argyll and Bute Council had sat down with headteachers and school librarians in the process of coming to a decision to cut much of school library services across Argyll and the isles; and that the suggestions on library service cuts had come from the librarians themselves.
This was fiercely resisted by the school librarians, all ten of whom insisted that they had never been directly consulted by the council.
For Argyll;’s information had come from a senior council source whose truthfulness and integrity we have not had any reason to doubt.
In the light of the response from the librarians, we said that we would immediately revert to our source to clarify what had happened in the matter of pre-decision consultation with the school librarians; and we did so.
We asked specific questions for confirmation as to whether any librarians were actually physically present and directly consulted at such a session; or whether some headteachers in the selected group involved had offered suggestions said to be ok with their librarians.
We have had no response from our source.
We still do not doubt that source’s truthfulness or integrity, although we now have good reason to doubt the accuracy of their understanding – and their accounts – of events.
We read the silence that has met our questions as one of embarrassment at a less than complete understanding that had been given to us as fact.
The responsibility is ours for accepting what we were told as fact without the rigorous interrogation we would have applied to a less known or trusted source – and that is a lesson we take away from this.
We would therefore wish to offer the school librarians in Argyll and Bute our voluntary and unequivocal apology for the infuriating inaccuracy of what we innocently published.
We would also wish to put on the record that we have also received a wealth of warm and spontaneous reports from parents and pupils in Oban and Tobermory on Mull, for the calibre and academic value of the work the High School librarians in both places do with students at these schools.
What is easily forgotten is that librarians are not only librarians but a very specific type of teacher whose active engagement with the learning process sees them contribute initiatives and services that substantially enrich the interests and the capabilities of receptive students in their schools.
Pupils in Oban whose parents have to drop them off early at school, have reported that the librarian is at work and has the library open from 8am in the morning, making it a welcome and rewarding place to spend time in advance of classes ahead.
Pupils and parents in both schools reported on events and visits organised by the respective librarians to intrigue and inform pupils on specific issues.
It is important to remember that in the cuts to library services, it is the loss of this proactive and dedicated commitment from specialist graduate librarians that the affected pupils, schools and wider communities face – and which many are now actively fighting to resist.
The sister isles of Mull and Iona, for example, have simply said, very publicly, that they will not accept these cuts. Tiree is also in the lists of determined combatants.
Many – ourselves included – will be warmed by this evidence that , in a digital age of Twittering word-bites and short attention spans, books and book learning clearly remain a highly valued element of education and of continuing education.
Lynda Henderson, Editor