But why have such a campaign? The 2008 Year of Reading has been a great success. There have been many exciting initiatives such as the Boys into Books campaign. In many ways, reading has never been more popular. Millions of books are bought and devoured by a huge reading public. Many authors are major figures in public life.
These successes can disguise very serious problems, however which are undermining the place of the book and reading for pleasure in national life. Here are some of the challenges we face:
- public library closures- sixty last year and more planned
- a loss of professional library staff- down 13% between 1995 and 2005
- more untrained volunteers instead of qualified library staff
- fewer books in schools, (according to one report, a 15% reduction while there has been 28% rise in spending on education)
- a shift from books to computer services
- the closure of school libraries to make way for ICT suites
- the sacking or down grading of both public and school librarians
- the closure of school libraries
- the marginalisation of reading for pleasure and the reading of whole books in many schools as teaching to the test replaces the pleasure of acquiring knowledge for its own sake
Given the present economic difficulties, many of these challenges are likely to become more pressing.
We, the signatories of this Charter commit ourselves to campaigning for the following:
- The central place of reading for pleasure in society
- A proper balance of book provision and Information Technology in public and school libraries. We welcome the integration of new technologies but believe that they must not erode the key place of books and the need for a healthy and expanding book stock
- The defence of public libraries and librarians from attempts to cut spending in a ‘soft’ area
- An extension of the role of the school librarian and a recognition of the school library as a key engine of learning. All staff employed in school libraries to have access to appropriate and adequate support and training
- The recruitment of more school librarians. It is a national scandal that less than a third of secondary schools has a trained librarian
- The defence of the professional status of the public and school librarian. We oppose downgrading. In some places this has reduced librarians’ salaries by up to half
- The promotion of reading whole books in school rather than excerpts
- A higher profile for reading for pleasure in schools, including shadowing book awards, inviting authors and illustrators to visit, developing school creative writing magazines
- To support the sustainability and future development of Schools Library Service provision nationally.
Supporters of the Campaign for the Book do not see themselves as competitors with professional associations, trade unions and existing library or school campaigns. We seek to create a national network to help coordinate the efforts of all who want to protect the status of the book and reading for pleasure. We will offer our support to local campaigns and initiatives.
It is time to stand up for reading.
It is time to campaign for the book.
For further information contact Alan Gibbons at: email@example.com.
Alan took paprt in a debate on the writers' and publishers' podcast show Litopia. You can listen to it by accessing: http://podcast.litopia.com/?p=212.