A SCOTS council has come under fire from unions, librarians and literature groups over the "folly" of plans to replace trained school library staff with pupils.

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland has told the Scottish Borders Council the pilot initiative has resulted in the organisation being "inundated with many expressions of concern".

The Scottish Book Trust, Literature Alliance Scotland and the EIS and Unison unions have all raised their worries about the pilot scheme in which pupils and other volunteers will staff libraries.

It is being introduced at three schools Galashiels Academy, Peebles High and Kelso High before a potential roll out of the cost-cutting changes to the region's other six secondary schools.

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Is is understood several librarians lost their jobs last year due to cuts, with less-qualified staff deputising.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) union said: "Seeking to replace such [library] staff with the unpaid labour of pupils is folly of the highest order”.

CILIP in Scotland trustee board chairman Duncan Wright said the council move was "exceptionally disappointing and highlights a complete lack of understanding of the role of the school librarian by council officials".

He added:"The school librarian is able to inform, teach and guide pupils through the many digital solutions available in their quest for information.

Pupils to help run libraries as full-time staff face axe

"Without the presence of staff within the library pupils will be left to flounder, without guidance, in the digital landscape that is prevalent in so many areas of our life.

"Questions must be asked why Scottish Borders Council feels pupils within their schools should not be offered the same help, support and guidance as pupils elsewhere in Scotland.”

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Eileen Prior, executive director of Connect, ormerly known as the Scottish Parent Teacher Council said: "Librarians are trained professionals who have a particular skill set, so parents are rightly concerned that their secondary school youngsters are being expected to step into a role they have no training for.

"Librarians do not just open the library door and check out books: they have the knowledge and skill to support learners in their study and research, and to support literacy skills. Not only does this approach remove that support for school pupils, it also places an unrealistic expectation on fellow pupils.”

Marc Lambert, chief executive of the Scottish Book Trust added: "While we understand the financial pressures councils are under, we can only see this deeply misguided idea as a false economy, and the first step in getting rid of school libraries altogether.

"It is important for everyone involved to acknowledge facts backed by rigorous evidence – that a school librarian plays a central role in ensuring the best educational outcomes for pupils, and that nothing can replace the expertise they represent, with all the proven benefits that come from their professional knowledge, and the care and attention with which it is delivered. Given this well known evidential base, asking pupils to step in to replace the services of such a professional seems more desperate than sensible.”

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Peggy Hughes, chairman of Literature Alliance, Scotland added: "Depriving the students of the Scottish Borders of their professional school librarians acts directly against giving them equal opportunities and equal rights. We urge Scottish Borders Council to rescind this decision, which will surely have a negative impact on the future life chances of the young people in their area.”

Three years ago a plan by East Renfrewshire Council to use pupils to help run on-site libraries at Scotland's top-performing secondary schools was scrapped following protests.

The idea of involving senior-year pupils in certain duties, while aiming to make all librarians in its seven secondary schools part-time aimed to save £131,000.

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A Scottish Borders Council spokesman said: "A pilot scheme is being implemented in three school libraries with a different model of operation.

"There will be no redundancies as a result of this, and the pilot will be reviewed before the end of 2018."

The council said that as part of its budget process it had been agreed to maintain schools libraries.

"However, within that, there is a requirement to recognise the changing way in which pupils study and access information, including digital solutions," the spokesman added.

"There are also opportunities for senior pupils to gain qualifications and training in leadership and other areas through taking on roles in school libraries and supporting their peers.

"This is operating successfully elsewhere and is also being explored as part of the pilot scheme."