COUNCIL officers are defending plans to replace library staff with pupils saying it will teach them leadership skills.

Scottish Borders Council has come under fire from unions, librarians and literature groups over the "folly" and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland has said 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.

The Herald:

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

The pilot 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.

A council spokesman said: “We remain committed to maintaining library services for our pupils.

“We are however undertaking a review to take into account the changing way in which pupils study and access information, including through digital solutions.

“The review will also take into account feedback from young people themselves who were asking for a more modernised and digitally enabled learning and study provision.

The Herald:

"This message was reinforced during our recent secondary school estate and Year of Young People consultations when young people said they would prefer social and library spaces in their schools to be more pupil owned and led.

"They also asked us to look at the possibility of extending library opening hours to fit in with their study schedules and we are keen to see if that could be accommodated.

“As a result, it has been agreed to run a pilot scheme in three school libraries that will explore a different model of operation. It was also agreed that as part of this trial, secondary pupils would be given the opportunity to train in leadership and other areas through taking on roles in school libraries and supporting their peers.

"There are already good practice examples in some of our primary schools where younger pupils have been taking on the role of Library Ambassadors and we are keen to see opportunities like this extended to our older pupils.

“The pilot will be reviewed before the end of 2018 and we will continue to consult with pupils, staff and Trades Unions throughout the process.”

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”.

The Herald:

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".

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.