What you will know now from years of national news is that local libraries are in trouble. They are either threatened with closure or closed by local authority budget restrictions at the national level. What you may not know is that school libraries are on the increase. But, what make this piece of seemingly contradictory evidence interesting is that it is a statutory, legal right for every community in the UK to have access to a local library but it is not a statutory requirement for every school to have a library. ‘Bonkers’ I hear you shout!!


It was my pleasure to interview Nina Simon, the Head of the Schools’ Library Service, for the London Borough of Redbridge for an insight on her experience working with school librarians and to ascertain what qualities a successful school library should strive to achieve…


1.The Public Libraries and the Museums Act states that there must be ‘comprehensive and efficient library services for all persons’ however it is not a requirement to have a school library.  Do you think that it is fair for local libraries to close when there is an increase in school libraries?’


‘We are lucky in Redbridge that this has not happened… We have lost a lot of staff from Local Libraries, not necessarily library closures’.

‘When you speak to School Librarians, they have very, very small school budgets and most secondary schools have a School Librarian but most of the Primary Schools have no Librarian’.

‘My feeling is that, without a Librarian, a library is simply a room with books, nothing else and it is the Librarian that makes the Library’.

‘Public Libraries should not close down, not only for students but for the local population – from very young to very old’.


2.What are there the various factors that make a Good School Library and what would be the best atmosphere?


‘The Library should be a safe ambience, flexible space for study, reading purposes and for pleasure.  It should have a professional Librarian and it should have quality, up to date and not tatty books’.

‘The library must be the heart of the school’.

‘There can be a low level of noise, if it is relevant to the study’.


‘It must put users first and should encourage reading for pleasure and for learning’.


3.Schools in disadvantaged areas as well as primary schools are less likely to have a Library.  Waterstones Children’s Laureate has said that this is a ‘social mobility time bomb’. What is your view on this comment? How can Librarians avert this potential social issue?


'According to the Great School Libraries report, there is clear evidence of a correlation between socio-economic status and access to a school library’.

‘The Great School Libraries campaign recommends National School Library strategies for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as they exists Scotland’.

‘The most that we can do as library professionals and library users is to join the Great School Libraries campaign and to advocate the value of both school libraries and the Schools’ Library Service’.


According to CILIP, the library and information professional association, the benefits of a local library are that you are connected with information, have access to knowledgeable staff and good quality resources. Moreover, local libraries provide a vital community hub that work to combat social exclusion and loneliness. A Library does not just provide people with books it has the ability to shape a person.


I would like to personally thank Ms Horn, our School Librarian here at Woodford County High School. She has successfully made our Library the heart of the school and it has such a welcoming atmosphere, where it encourages not only reading but also learning. She is constantly reading, despite her busy schedule and has knowledge in almost everything.


Written By Lakavi Suthan, Woodford County High School