One in five school libraries funding slashed
School librarians want statutory protection after a survey found one in five schools cut funding for their library last year.
They are preparing to lobby the government to require all schools to have a library and to ring-fence their income so money for books and librarians cannot be diverted to other things.
President of the School Library Association Glenys Bichan says schools pay for their libraries from their operations grant and often they dipped into that money in order to pay for other costs.
"If there's a problem, your school roll grows, you need extra staff, then in a sense the school library is the easy beat, we're an easy place to get money from.
"You've got to have empathy with how schools are managed, but we just don't want schools' libraries touched."
Glenys says the association was planning to lobby the government for changes.
"We want a law to make our libraries essential in every school in New Zealand, we want a specialist, dedicated librarian in every school, and we want our funding ring-fenced so that funding goes straight to a library and it doesn't go through an ops grant so that school principals and boards of trustees can't touch funding that's allocated to a school library."
Glenys says a survey of school librarians showed 22 per cent of school libraries suffered funding cuts last year.
It also found most librarians felt underpaid, and showed a huge gap between rich and poor communities, with decile one schools spending an average of $9.98 per student on new library items last year compared with $19.69 at decile ten schools.
Glenys says her own library, at Cambridge High School, was closed in the early 2000s but it reopened in 2005 and was flourishing with increasing student use.
She says libraries are important for student success.
"Kids who read flourish in science, they flourish in maths. Kids who read become school leaders, kids who read develop empathy."
Glenys recently finished meetings with school librarians around the country. She says some are doing well, but others are not.
"Sadly, there's a bunch that are suffering. For example, there's a high school where the budget has been slashed to $3000 a year for them to purchase books and it's got a roll of close to 1000, that is just ridiculous. You should be spending at least $16 per student."