By Rachel Huskisson
After several months of planning and hard work by the campaign committee to get the report published, we finally reached the day of the report launch.
The 7th March saw people from all over the UK coming together at Portcullis House in Westminster to discover the findings of the latest survey. The day itself was set to be a fantastic opportunity for people from many different professions, all with an interest in the campaign, to gather and learn more about how we all have a part to play in amplifying the core message of the campaign. This was evident from the huge range represented, including MPs, authors, publishers, literacy charities, library suppliers, senior leaders in education and many more.
After a brief welcome from Nick Poole, CEO of CILIP, who stated that "school libraries truly transform futures", we were treated to talks from two incredibly inspiring authors: Anthony Horowitz and the Right Honourable Dr Stuart Lawrence. They shared personal stories about the role of school libraries in their lives, and they both very firmly believe they would not be where they are now without school libraries.
Alison Tarrant, the co-chair for the campaign, went on to summarise the findings of the report, which you can read here.
Mary Rose Grieve, co-chair of the campaign committee, gave a rallying cry to raise awareness about the impact of school libraries on students. She stressed that school libraries are a hub of learning and inquiry and that librarians play a key role in supporting curriculum development, driving instructional research, and inspiring curiosity.
The final part of the day saw three members of the steering group for the campaign invited to take questions from the 50+ members of the audience. Sonia Thompson, a Headteacher at St Matthew’s C of E Primary School in Birmingham, Maeve Walsh, a policymaker and government relations expert and Sufiya Ahmed, award winning author and school library champion. They were also joined by Dr Lawrence, the GSL ambassador.
It was clear from the huge range of questions and reflections that the issues raised in the report are complex and far-reaching.
Attendees wondered, why is the role of school librarian so devalued? Should independent schools be doing more and working with state partners? The importance of health and digital literacy for the future adults of our society, how do we create library users of the future? What of the “levelling up” promised by government? How do school leaders fund the much-needed and wanted libraries? How can we involve young people’s voices? What about AI? Why do teachers not always value the school library?
Whilst it may seem that we came away from the day with more questions than solutions, there was a buzz of energy, a strong feeling of this being a social justice issue, an issue that we really need to make some noise about. Despite the depressing figures exposed by the research, by coming together to hear the findings of the report, debate the issues and take the key messages back to our spheres of influence there was a feeling that we could begin to chip away at the imbalances we see and strive for a more equal future for all our young people, because every child deserves a great school library.