This is LISU’s fourteenth annual report on the provision and use of public library services to schools and children. The series is an invaluable management tool for both public and schools library services, allowing comparison and benchmarking against other authorities and the wider national picture.
This year, the picture for schools library services is a mixed one, with some areas clearly faring better than others. Staff numbers continue to fall, slowly, and although stock provision is relatively stable, the pattern of acquisitions shows considerable variation in all sectors, and the degree of variation observed on a sector-wide scale raises concerns over the longer term management and strategic planning of services. Of particular concern is the continuing fall in many areas in the percentage of pupils served by schools library services. The closure of one service in London, and continued threat to several more does not bode well for future provision.
For public library services to children, the decline in materials expenditure in real terms continues, although there are signs of increases in the replenishment rate in several sectors. These remain higher than those for the adult public library service. Patterns of declining use continue, both in terms of the proportions of stock on loan and annual issues, although again there are some encouraging signs. It is also heartening to note that staffing levels are beginning to improve, and if this greater commitment to the services continues, further improvement can be expected.
The report gives a summary of trends in both services over the last five years; examines the role and numbers of staff working with children; considers service provision, resources and expenditure in public library services to children; and details service provision, financial arrangements and use of schools library services. Detailed tables are given listing the information provided by each authority and service, and estimates for the overall position in the UK are included in the commentary.