Tag Archives: school librarians

World Education Support Day: an opportunity for school librarians

Four years ago, Education International, the world’s leading international education trade union organisation, launched its Declaration on Education Support Personnel (ESP), defined as covering a wide range of professional, administrative, technical, and general staff working within the education sector such as teaching assistants, school nurses and psychologists, bursars, bus drivers, and, of course librarians. 

The day of the signing of the Declaration, 16 May, was set by the organisation as World Education Support Personnel Day, and since then, each 16 May has brought events and publications highlighting the specific needs of ESP.

With many ESP being members of wider education unions, this was a logical step, but also a reminder of the need to remember that effective education and teaching depends on a wide range of people.

IFLA and libraries have of course long underlined how essential library services are for education throughout life, with both the Public Library Manifesto and School Library Manifesto stressing our institutions’ and profession’s ability to contribute to learning.

Yet is is also true that school libraries in particular face real challenges in the face of cuts to education spending (see stories from the US about ‘disappearing’ school librarians), while university librarians can face challenges in asserting their status vis-à-vis other departments (see, most recently, stories from Texas A&M).

There is a pressing need to ensure that libraries are seen as having a central – rather than a peripheral or optional – role in education. We need it to be clear that libraries are not disposable – a nice-to-have rather than a need-to-have – and indeed are key to delivering the new vision of education set out in UNESCO’s Futures of Education report.

As part of these efforts, Education International’s Declaration on ESP is a powerful support for advocacy. This blog sets out three key arguments which libraries and library associations can then draw on in advocacy:

Librarians and other ESP are central to education:  As already indicated above, the Declaration offers strong support for a vision of schools and wider learning environments that recognises how essential ESP are. They help ensure that learning environments are positive and safe, delivering on the right to education, and indeed contribute significantly to building the ‘whole student’, with the full range of skills needed to succeed.

Crucially, this means, as article 5 indicates, that ‘ESP are a part of a team of education employees that contribute to student learning. They deserve to be valued and respected for their contribution to quality education’. Importantly, and reflecting a wider Education International priority, the Declaration also comes out strongly against out-sourcing.

Librarians and other ESP must be given equal treatment and be involved in decision-making: the follow on from this point is that given their role in supporting learning, ESP should be fully engaged in the way in which schools and other institutions are run. Logically, this includes the way in which knowledge and skills are shared and developed.

Furthermore, the landing page for Education International’s work in this area underlines that for similar levels of qualification and experience, librarians and other ESP should enjoy the same rights and status as formal teaching personnel. This would certainly be welcome, underlining that librarians and others must not be treated as second-class.

Librarians and other ESP deserve decent working conditions: again following on from the above, the Declaration underlines that there is specific need to work to give ESP – and so librarians – quality employment. This is not just about salaries, but also about employment perspectives, and a freedom from threats of harassment or other insecurity.

This is indeed the focus of this year’s World Education Support Personnel Day, which stresses deteriorating conditions for many in the field, and indeed loss of status or job security.


The Declaration is therefore a useful reference for libraries and library associations around the world working to protect the status of librarians based within education institutions, both in mobilising the support of wider education unions, and in engaging directly with governments.

Take a look at the Education International website for additional insights, information and research that can help you in your advocacy.

Library Stat of the Week #36: Where there are more school libraries, children enjoy reading more

The Gates Foundation’s Goalkeepers 2020 report, published earlier this week, highlights the risk that literacy could suffer as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

It presents different projections, suggesting that the share of children finishing primary school with the ability to read and understand a basic text could fall back to 2015, or even 2010 levels.

This has important knock-on effects, with children then struggling to engage with other subjects at school, achieving less, and finding it harder to integrate into the labour market later in life.

A key determinant of literacy, as underlined in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is enjoyment of reading outside of school. In turn, a key argument made in library advocacy is that our institutions – both public, and embedded in schools, can help build a love of reading.

There have been a good number of studies exploring the connection between school libraries and reading performance at the local level. But what does the data say at the global level?

To explore this, we have brought together information from the IFLA Library Map of the World, as well as OECD PISA data, which used surveys of students alongside tests to find out about habits related to reading.

Graph 1, as a first step, looks at average levels of enjoyment of reading among 15 year olds in participating countries, based on data for 2018. The higher (more positive) a bar is, the more children in the country, on average, report enjoying reading.

Graph 1: Enjoyment of Reading (OECD PISA)

This underlines strong variation between countries, with 15 year olds in Turkey, Kazakhstan, Peru and Indonesia displaying the highest level of enjoyment of reading, while those in Denmark, Croatia and Sweden were less keen.

It is worth noting that total figures, as displayed here, cover varying levels of enjoyment within populations (and indeed, it is on this basis that the OECD can show links between enjoyment and literacy).

Graph 2 turns to the number of school libraries per student. Combining UNESCO Institute for Statistics data with that from the IFLA Library Map of the World data, we can work out how many school libraries there are for every 1000 children enrolled in primary or secondary schools.

Graph 2: School Libraries per 1000 students

For countries for which we have data, there are an average of 1.81 school libraries per 1000 students. Within this, there is strong variation, with the largest number of school libraries per student being found in Poland, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Graph 3 brings this data together, with numbers of school libraries per 1000 students on the horizontal (X) axis, and the enjoyment of reading index on the vertical (y) axis.

Graph 3: School Libraries per 1000 Students and Enjoyment of Reading

This indicates a positive correlation between numbers of school libraries and enjoyment of reading, demonstrated by the gently rising line. This indicates that in general, where there are more school libraries, enjoyment of reading.

Clearly, however, there are limitations to this finding. First of all, not all countries operate with school libraries, with public libraries taking up their role. And of course, having more school libraries may be part of a wider strategy to promote reading, including through different techniques for promoting this.

They may also organise schools differently, with larger or smaller institutions, which will affect the number of libraries per student. Finally, data on school library workers is limited, meaning that is it not possible to carry out analysis using this.

Future editions of Library Stat of the Week will dig deeper into the available data on school (and public) libraries, and results from OECD’s work on reading habits and performance among children.


Find out more on the Library Map of the World, where you can download key library data in order to carry out your own analysis! See our other Library Stats of the Week! We are happy to share the data that supported this analysis on request.