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'The entire infrastructure has dissolved': School libraries are struggling to meet students' needs

The school libraries grant was withdrawn during the recession and has never been reinstated.

43 NO FEE RYAN TUBRIDY Children’s Books Ireland Ryan Tubridy at St Raphaela’s Secondary School on Wednesday. The school is one of this year's Robert Dunbar Memorial Libraries winners. Source: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

A NATIONAL ORGANISATION that promotes reading for children is warning that government budget cuts have gutted school libraries, leaving many students across Ireland without books to read.

Children’s Books Ireland (CBI) say the situation has been deteriorating since the Department of Education withdrew its €2.2 million grant for school libraries in 2008 and now many schools are left with a dated stock of tatty unsuitable books while newly built schools have dedicated libraries with nothing on their shelves.

Two years ago the CBI launched Robert Dunbar Memorial Libraries, a book-gifting programme named after its late patron, in a bid to stop the rot. It was immediately flooded with 300 applications from schools across the country.

“Reading those applications was very, very grim,” Director of CBI, Elaina Ryan, told TheJournal.ie. 

“The same situation was playing out in schools all across the country. Primary and secondary. Urban and rural. It can be particularly keenly felt in rural areas where the kids run out of books and there’s no public library nearby. The kids are left with nothing.”

How do they expect them to read without books? The entire infrastructure has dissolved.

The situation has also left many teachers buying books with their own money and numerous schools have been left unable to provide books for students who have learning difficulties or those who use English as an additional language. 

This year the all-island Robert Dunbar Memorial Libraries programme is being gifted to four schools in Dublin, Tipperary, Derry and Belfast. The schools will each receive a library worth €8,000 as well as a ‘Patron of Reading’ programme, training for students and staff and resources and print materials worth a combined €40,000.

55 NO FEE RYAN TUBRIDY Children’s Books Ireland

The organisation has launched a survey in partnership with UCD and the School Library Association to get hard stats about the health of school libraries across the country.

The survey will run until the end of the school year and CBI is urging all schools to take part so it can present a detailed picture of schools’ needs to the Department of Education.

This year’s Robert Dunbar Memorial Libraries winners are:

  • Gortnahoe National School, Tipperary with Paula Leyden as Patron of Reading
  • St Paul’s Nursery and Primary School, Derry with Myra Zepf as Patron of Reading   
  • St Genevieve’s High School, Belfast with Sheena Wilkinson as Patron of Reading
  • St Raphaela’s Secondary School, Dubin with Dave Rudden as Patron of Reading

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Ceimin Burke

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