SCOTLAND's top-performing ­secondary schools are involved in a controversial cost-cutting plan to use pupils to help run their on-site libraries.

East Renfrewshire Council has floated the idea of involving senior- year pupils in certain duties, while aiming to make all librarians in its seven secondary schools part-time to save £131,000.

Councillors have to bridge a budget shortfall of £20 million over the next three years, and it becomes the latest local authority to propose austerity measures.

Glasgow is seeking £100m of savings over three years and Highland plans to shed 1,000 jobs as part of a bid to save £64m by 2020.

The Scottish arm of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), the leading body representing the sector, said it "seems to be the most extreme suggestion heard yet" for school library cost-cutting.

Three of the seven schools affected, St Ninian's High School, Williamwood High School and Mearns Castle High School, came first, second and third in a nationwide league table based on state school Higher exam results published last year. Other schools that would be hit by the proposals are Eastwood High, Woodfarm High, St Luke's High and Barrhead High.

The suggestion is made in the ­council's 2015 to 2018 budget book. It has already suggested cutting 200 posts over the next three years, and identified £10.3m of savings required without impacting on frontline services.

The document states: "By identifying options to introduce self-service or to involve our senior year pupils on a voluntary basis in supporting the running of their school's library, we believe we are able to reduce the full-time dedicated librarian resource within each of our secondary schools and replace this with a part-time resource, without reducing the level of service."

CILIP in Scotland said the proposals were of great concern. It added: "We do not believe that this could possibly result in the service provided not being reduced.

"CILIP recognises that many are facing difficult budget choices as a result of significant financial pressures. However, we maintain that the availability of access to full-time professional school librarian expertise contributes to successful delivery of curriculum outcomes, promotion of literacy and reading, and should be retained."

The body said that full-time, ­professionally qualified school ­librarians allow children and young people to develop the skills needed to be successful and participate fully in an information society.

Jo McCrum of the Society of Authors also expressed concern, saying: "We strongly believe that librarians should be qualified, and libraries properly staffed and stocked."

She added: "So many pupils are disengaged from reading and what they really need is a librarian to physically put a book that would interest them in their hands. You can't replace that with pupils or part-time staff.

"We are all for getting pupils involved in the libraries, but not at the expense of properly qualified librarians."

An East Renfrewshire Council spokeswoman insisted pupils would assist, not replace, librarians and that nothing had been "set in stone". There was no detail yet as to how the proposals would work in practice.

"There are a number of savings that need to be made. Not all of them are particularly palatable," she said.

"What we are trying to do is ­understand if that saving was to be made, what possible alternatives are there and what other steps could we take to mitigate the impact of that."

A five-week consultation began on Monday and a final decision is expected in February.