This is an analysis of my thoughts after reading the Library and Information Commission Report, "Open to All? The Public library and Social Exclusion" Volume 3: Working Papers", 2000.
As this report was published nine years ago, some of it's information is now outdated. It is interesting, however, to see the thoughts at the time and track the changes that have come about since then. At the time there was concern that public libraries were seen as catering for middle classes. Muddiman (2000), considers that social exclusion is complex, widespread, and needs to be tackled by the whole library movement "Rather than strategies which approach exclusion as an ephemeral of peripheral concern." In 1998, the Schools Standards and Framework Act set up Education Action Zones to give priority to literacy and numeracy in partnership with schools, business, LEA's and parents. They were given £750,000 from government and £250,000 from private partners to find innovative ways to increase learning. They had an intended lifespan of 5 years, when some of them turned into Excellence in Cities action zones. I found this information on the DfEE website. I would like to find out what has happened to them. It seems like another reserach project. I mention this, because some children's mobile libraries had some dealings with the EAZ's. I know we visited certatin schools and certatian area's as part of the Reading Rocket because they were in the Education Action Zone's of Derby. It would be interesting to find out if any of that money was used to fund Children's mobile libraries.
In the conclusion of Vincent's chapter about Public libraries, children and young people, and social exclusion, he predicts that the "Flurry of Activity", out reach and community initiatives, at that time would not last long. He believed that external funding would run out leaving projects to be either mainstream funded to the detriment of other services, or to stop entirely. I think that his prediction was right, it is certainly what happened to the Reading Rocket. However, the Bookstart scheme started in 1992, and has grown and developed giving free books to children up to the age of 5, and some offshoots of the scheme giving free books to children of the age of 11. I think I really need to check my facts for that. The good thing about the bookstart scheme is that it brings together health visitors, educational or care establishments, parents and Libraries. West Sussex libraries have two children's mobile, one of them has been around for a while, and because of the success with its work with the bookstart scheme it has persuaded its authorty to purchase a second mobile library.
Back to Vincent, he lists a number of library initiatives that involves to fostering of literacy in libraries. for insatance summer reading schemes. holiday activities and work with men and boys. He acknowledges that libraries have a responsibility to advance literacy. He states that at that time less children visited libraries on their own becasue of parents fears of percieved dangers and traffic hazards. Parents do not take them themselves instead. He feared cutbacks on out reach and community based work and cites mobile library services for children as being under threat. He also believs that there will be in consequence a reduction of feedback from local communities and a reduction in library posts with a special responsibility for children. He is worried about the training of librarians, and in 2000 there was a reduction of courses for librarians specialising in working with children.
This is at a time when children's library work was becoming important. The 1995 "Investing in Children" report says that taking the library into the community into places that are different, is the way to reach parents and children who would not go into a library building. People who visit a children's mobile library are commonly heard to say "I have never been into a library before".