Parents in Glasgow have been left ‘baffled’ as more details emerge over the future of a library service used by two thirds of the city’s schools.

Last week the Herald revealed that Glasgow’s School Library Outreach service will cease at the end of the school term in June 2024.

The service provides a range of resources for schools, including materials relating to a broad range of subjects, visits from Glasgow librarians and educational books produced in different languages.

The Herald’s report was based on official communications from council officials, which confirmed that deliveries of books and teaching materials to schools “will stop”. 

Following publication, the Glasgow Parents Group, which represents parents in the city, received correspondence from Andrew Olney, Director of Libraries, Sport and Communities for Glasgow Life, which stated “contrary to a recent media report, the School Library Outreach service in Glasgow has not been scrapped”. 

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The Herald then approached Glasgow Life, the charity set-up to run and invest in culture and sport within Glasgow, with a number of key questions, the responses to which confirmed that the library service will close in its current form, that schools and nurseries will have to pay for materials, and that no support for transporting books and resources will be provided. 

Asked how much schools would have to pay to access materials, Glasgow Life stated that they are “currently assessing this” but “at the moment” they expect the fee to be “around 20% of cost”. All materials could be accessed completely free of charge prior to the change of policy. 

When asked what budgets could be used by schools to pay these fees, Glasgow Life said that this would be a matter for headteachers. 

The organisation’s responses show that the continued sharing of resources will be dependent upon schools first buying materials, and then sharing them free of charge with other schools.

Glasgow Life confirmed that they have “agreed to provide Education Services with a mapping of what has been placed where”, but stated that it would have “no role” in ensuring that materials were actually available to be lent across the city. When asked who would shoulder the costs of transporting materials, the spokesperson said: “Schools would arrange.” 

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The Herald already reported that no Equality Impact Assessment was carried out with respect to this decision, despite the potential impact on groups such as those for whom English is not their first language. Glasgow Life say that there was “no need to formally conduct an Equality Impact Assessment.” 

The organisation also confirmed that it expects to save £130,000 by closing the School Library Outreach service. 

Leanne McGuire, chair of Glasgow City Parents Group, described the situation as “shocking” after being shown the responses to our questions. 

“The uncertainty of how the school library outreach service will continue to operate is baffling. It will be interesting to know how equitable it will be.

“The details we’ve received about this change to the service appear to push it onto the schools to manage, which in our opinion is unfair to put that burden onto them, as well as a financial cost onto already squeezed school budgets.  

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“The information we've been provided by Glasgow Life about the new service is confusing and vague, which only confirms our fears that the service will not operate as successfully as it was. It seems that it will be your luck if you have a school who can afford it or have the capacity to use the change in delivery. 

“By their own statistics, Glasgow Life has confirmed that two-thirds of Glasgow schools used the service, so we don't understand why you would change or close a popular service like this.”

A spokesperson for Glasgow Life told the Herald: “A letter sent to headteachers explained the delivery and collection of free materials provided via the School Libraries Outreach service stopped at the end of the previous school year. 

“The school library outreach resources will remain available to any schools or nurseries in Glasgow that want to use them. Previously located in the Mitchell Library, the broad range of books and other material will now be based in nurseries and primary schools across the city, with options for schools to borrow across the school network, to support learning and delivery of the curriculum. To be clear, the resources are not being removed from schools, and are instead being moved into schools for a nominal fee that covers these costs. 

“Using the service was optional for establishments, and 32% of Glasgow schools made no use of it last year, preferring instead to provide their own resources. 

“Schools will have direct access to the high-quality resources to augment their libraries rather than lending provision from the Mitchell Library.”