Celebrated Scottish writer Ian Rankin has added his voice to a call to action from the UK Society of Authors in Scotland against proposed funding cutbacks by Edinburgh City Council that include “sharing a school librarian between two schools.” Rankin’s comment on the call to action notice puts the issue in a nutshell: “Proposing to cut school library services in the first-ever designated Unesco City of Literature? I despair.”
As Rankin rightly points out, Edinburgh holds the honor of being the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature. The actual call to action from Lin Anderson, Chair of the Society of Authors in Scotland, delivered in an open letter to Sue Bruce, Chief Executive at Edinburgh City Council, doesn’t mention either this or Edinburgh’s broader – and enormously lucrative – cultural industry, as typified by the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and the many other summer Festival events which contribute so much to the local, and national, economy and culture. But Rankin and Anderson alike obviously feel that the Council’s proposals go against the entire spirit of this supremely literary and cultural city.
Anderson does cite, at length, the various studies and reports that show just how important it is for children to have access to libraries and other facilities to foster reading. “Regular reading and visits to libraries were found to be more important factors in improving a child’s test scores than a parent’s level of education,” she notes of recent research from the Institute of Education. Of the Society of Authors’ own research, she notes, “it is vital that children are encouraged by their school, and by trained professionals within their school, to read outside school. It was clear from our Society of Authors’ survey on Author Visits in Primary and Secondary Schools (October 2013) that school librarians play a crucial role in selecting texts and organising the author visits that inspire so many pupils.”
The Edinburgh City Council proposals are open for public consultation, due to close December 20th, and the SoA states that: “Campaigners believe this proposal could be overturned if enough stakeholders act during the consultation period.” Not content with commenting on the SoA site, Rankin also tweeted the same message to Edinburgh City Council, as picked up by Scottish television network STV in Edinburgh, and elsewhere.
Rankin is one of the few living writers to be honored by Scotland’s celebrated library-loving mystery book sculptor – who herself has created a mini-industry of fandom and speculation. What she may be thinking, or crafting, to mark Edinburgh City Council’s plans can only be guessed at.