Monday 23 April 2012

Council target children's library membership - but where are the libraries?

From Preston Library 'wall of shame'
The drastic drop in library visits and books borrowed since the closure of half of Brent's libraries has challenged fundamentally Brent Council's claim that the 'Libraries Transformation Project' would improve the service and increase uptake.

The department has now written to primary schools urging them to sign children up for library membership and offering class library visits. The children's poet Michael Rosen recently advocated a library ticket for every child when they start school to foster a love of books and this is something I strongly support.

However, the problem is that for Brent primary aged children and for primary classes this will only work if they have a neighbourhood library within reasonable walking distance. Because of the closures this is not the case for many schools and I doubt, given the numbers involved, that outreach staff would be able to cope.

When the Town Hall Library moves to the Civic Centre it will put the library out of reasonable walking distance of children on Chalkhill - not because they can't walk but because the time taken to walk to and from the library would eat into other learning time in an already crowded curriculum. With half an hour in the library this would make an hour and a half out of school - we can hardly expect schools to start booking coaches to take their children to the library!

The aim of encouraging children's membership is laudable but is this also an attempt to boost the visits and borrowing figures?

Dear English Subject Leader,

Every Child a Reader / Every Child a Library Member

As part of Brent Libraries commitment to help develop and foster a lifelong love of books and reading in all Brent children, we would like to encourage all schools to sign children up for membership under our new libraries’ membership  drive. The process of doing this is very simple. If you can provide us with the names of all the children in your school, we will complete library membership forms and issue each child with their own library membership ticket.  This is a special school library ticket that will be kept at the library ready for school class visits.   Borrowed books can be used at school and taken home.  The child’s address will be care of the school address with the school administration email address for communication.  May we stress however that the school will not be liable for any book losses.  Emails will be sent to the school once books have gone three months’ overdue but these emails printed in hardcopy format just need to be brought to the library so that staff can sort out any problems.  There will be no fines to schools.

This is a wonderful opportunity for all Brent children and we would like to encourage you to contact your local library or myself to arrange for library tickets for all your children and of course book regular class visits to the library.  Regular class visits include the opportunity to borrow books from a great range of children’s picture books, graphic novels, fiction and information books, develop information skills and enjoy some lovely storytelling with library staff.  Brent Libraries also offers computers for learning, and some wonderful storytelling, cultural and learning events delivered by some of the best authors and artists in the UK.  There are also after school homework clubs with a qualified teacher to support children’s learning.

We look forward to receiving the list of names from your school for library membership and booking a library visit.  If distance is a problem for visiting your local library, an outreach visit to your school by library staff can be arranged.

Yours sincerely,
Sarah Smith
Libraries’ Development Manager

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Historically it has always been a bit difficult to get schools to organise class visits not just because of the the distance they have to walk but the shortage of adults to accompany them. When the libraries all had good managers they would actively encourage regular outreach work in local schools and the library staff could go to them, given the dis-interest shown by an already demoralised and greatly reduced workforce I wonder if they can really offer the same kind of service. Hypocritical Brent may want more children to join the library but what are they actually doing to encourage them? Oh yes,CLOSING libraries.