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Supporting outside services that work for our schools: Why the closure of Walsall SLS makes me mad

Why have I posted a picture of storm clouds? Well, I've just read Elizabeth Roberts post on Leon's Library Blog, a shameful account of how Walsall Schools Library Service came to close in March this year and I am not sure I can put into words how mad I am about this but I will give it a go. I will also promise that it will be a productive post and not a rant.

SLS Walsall had been warned that the agreement with headteacher, to top slice their budgets to invest in the Schools Library Service, was due to end in 2019. This was not a shock and plans were in place to convert to a trust based service.

This service was well used and supported. Providing an essential service to schools both through loans but also as Elizabeth says "we revitalised school libraries, ran book clubs, told stories, gave information literacy sessions, performed poetry, ran quizzes, provided booklists and advised on purchases. Our staff were experts on children’s books. The list was endless" This was a well used and respected service with professional staff supporting all schools so why did it close.

The carpet was pulled from under their feet. The deadline was brought forward which did not leave them enough time to raise the funds they needed to survive. No looking at how close they were to raising the amount needed to continue, no loan to enable them to see their first year out, no understanding of the important role that this service was providing. What I can't get my head around is the shortsightedness of everyone involved.

Stories like this just make me wonder what councils are thinking. This was not even a story about cutting the service to save money because this had been going to happen anyway. This could of been a real feel good story with the council loaning them the money for the first year, but no. The real losers in this story are the children of Walsall who now don't have access to more books, the teachers of Walsall who now don't have access to expert help in digital and information literacy and the schools of Walsall whose school libraries now don't have the support they once had.

These incredible librarians are not down and out yet. They have so much passion and belief that the service they provide is essential that they are starting again. I hope to see Read for you Life flourish and succeed despite the despicable way they have been treated. Especially as there was absolutely no need for them to start from scratch.

If we as a society truly believe that literacy, critical thinking and independent learning is important we have to find a way to ensure that these services can continue to support our schools. Collaboration, teamwork, and empathy are all words regularly used in schools these days. Let's start working together rather than becoming a society that only looks after number one.

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