GRUFFALO writer Julia Donaldson has condemned “short sighted” cuts to library services as council elections loom.

The former children’s laureate is backing a campaign which calls for libraries to be a major issue at the local authority vote in May.

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS), which represents the country’s librarians, is calling on candidates to protect budgets and keep trained staff.

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Just 11 of the country’s councils have a fully-qualified librarian in every secondary school, despite an overall increase in school rolls.

Donaldson, who visits young fans in schools around the world, said: “Reading broadens the mind, stimulates the imagination and increases literacy. And librarians and libraries are the most important people and places for fostering a love of reading.

School librarians, who develop close relationships with the pupils, often can suggest just the right book to a child from a home where there are few or no books, instilling what can become a lifelong love of reading.”

The intervention comes as efforts continue to drive up learning achievements and overcome the attainment gap between richer and poorer pupils.

A new report by chief education inspector Bill Maxwell found “many strengths” and examples of “outstanding and innovative practice”, but inspectors called for greater consistency between different schools, better collaboration between establishments to share good practice and greater involvement from parents, other services and the wider community.

The “quality of learning and teaching” at high schools was also found to be “too variable”.

Launching the report at Larbert High yesterday, Maxwell said: “High-quality leadership will be essential to ensuring that sufficient progress is made, across all sectors, in order to continue to secure improvements in education practice and achieve our national ambition of ensuring all learners can reach their potential, regardless of their background.”

Recalling a recent visit to Australia, Donaldson said: “I met a group of primary-school librarians who told me that their post was a prestigious one. They could hardly believe it when I told them that in the UK there were hardly any primary school librarians and that many of those in secondary schools were losing their jobs. How can we be so short-sighted?”

Catherine Kearney, director of CILIP in Scotland, said: “Schools with school libraries and librarians achieve higher exam scores, leading to higher academic attainment and increased motivation and self-esteem among pupils. Our campaign targets those standing for election in Scotland’s local authorities to pledge support for our school and public libraries and stand up against cuts and reductions in service.”