Survey of School Libraries shows gulf between best and the rest


There is a growing gap between the best services and those where resources and management support are failing, according to a new CILIP School Libraries Group report.

The national survey of UK school libraries has just been completed, with detailed replies from 1,547 secondary, middle, special and independent schools and exhaustive activity reports from over 1,000 of these, supplemented by information from 655 primary schools.

The report School Libraries in the UK: a worthwhile past, a difficult present – and a transformed future? concludes that the vision and support of senior management is vital to success. It is crucial that school management recognise the difference that a good school library can make.

Currently, it is not a statutory requirement for schools in England to have a school library. Making school libraries and librarians statutory would be a big help in securing the vital role that libraries can play in enhancing teaching and learning.

Professor Stephen Heppell said: “The evidence continues to accumulate that libraries - and their librarians - lie absolutely at the heart of 3rd millennium learning organisations:  a place for scholarship, a place to escape into adventures, a place of discovery, a place to share and explore, a place for deep thought, a place for surprise, and above all else a place absolutely without limits. The best schools have libraries at their centres not as some sad throwback to an earlier age but as a clear and evocative prototype of what ambitious learning might look like in this century of learning.”

The key findings of the report are:

• There is a clear, and growing, difference between the best and the rest in terms of funding levels, staffing and the services provided. 31% of respondents judged the library stock good for supporting teaching and learning in the school and only 15% thought coverage of websites and e-publications was good.

• 87% of qualified librarians are contributing to information literacy work in their school by such activities as planning and conducting lessons in the library or classroom, often jointly with teachers. A growing number of library staff are actively engaging with ICT to make e-resources available and help develop e-learning platforms to support teaching and learning throughout the school.

• 25% of qualified librarians are helping to design and manage the school website; 59% are contributing actively to the school VLE, learning platform or website.

• There is excellent work going on in helping students to develop as information literate adults capable of functioning effectively in the Age of Cyber-Information as well as in supporting literacy and reading for pleasure.

• There is a clear positive relationship between the level of education of school librarians and their ability to make an impact on teaching and learning in their schools.

• Too many school libraries are staffed by unqualified people who lack the skills and knowledge to work effectively with teachers in developing information literacy, in actively and imaginatively promoting reading and in exploiting the possibilities of ICT to support learning.

• A worrying number of secondary and independent schools (32%), and primary schools (18%), are reporting cuts in budgets, sometimes from a very low base. Most other respondents reported no change in funding levels (effectively a decrease).

School Libraries in the UK: a worthwhile past, a difficult present – and a transformed future? was commissioned by CILIP’s School Libraries Group and prepared by David Streatfield, Sue Shaper and Simon Rae-Scott, and is available online at:


Press contacts:

Sue Shaper, Library Resources Director, The Broxbourne School:
Tel: 01992 411060 ext 240

David Streatfield, Information Management Associates:
Tel: 0208 755 0471

Notes to editors:

1. CILIP School Libraries Group
The CILIP School Libraries Group is committed to enabling its 2500 members to achieve and maintain the highest professional standards in the delivery and promotion of quality library and information services to support 21st century teaching and learning. The School Libraries Group Chair, Rebecca Hemming said: "Every young person needs a librarian and every school needs a library if our students are to fulfil their potential."

Visit  for more information.

Last modified on: 23/07/2010 03:04 PM