Equal futures? An imbalance of opportunities

Great School Libraries is a three year evidenced-based campaign led by CILIP, the UK library and information association, CILIP School Libraries Group (SLG), and the School Library Association (SLA). Its aim is to bring back libraries and access to librarians in every school in the UK. The guiding principle of the campaign is a firm belief that every child deserves a great school library. 

Phase 2 of the campaign has now been completed. Key findings: 


  • Secondary schools with school libraries have dropped to 86% from 96% in 2019 
  • 25% of respondents hold Head of Department status, and 39% are line managed by the Head-teacher, and they are collaborating with SENCo, pastoral leads and Gifted and Talented Co-ordinators 
  • Even in schools with a school library, 40% of primary schools with a library reported that the lack of reading resources were restricting reading 
  • Of schools without school libraries 85% say it is due to a lack of space with budget constraints cited by one in five respondents. A third rely on their Schools Library Service, and over a quarter rely on their public library to supplement reading resources. 
  • School library provision is not equal across nations or regions. 

This new research demonstrates that school libraries are adapting and changing to become multi-functional platforms for blended teaching and learning. There is evidence of cross-curricular support with libraries enhancing teaching across science, mathematics and arts subjects. 

In a quarter of schools where there is a librarian, the librarian has Head of Department status and just over a third of librarians are line managed by the Head Teacher. It is clear that in places, a new dynamic relationship between the school and its library is emerging which reflects and supports the schools’ educational aims and helping to extends curriculum based teaching and learning. However, this is not universal. 

This research was generated by the Great School Libraries campaign with the Primary School Library Alliance, supported by the Foyle Foundation, National Literacy Trust (NLT), Penguin Random House and the Lightbulb Trust and with generous sponsorship from the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS). 

The report (which can be downloaded here: https://www.greatschoollibraries.org.uk/2023research) contains clear recommendations for national governments, educators and sector bodies, to move this situation forward, in order that all children can have the benefits of a school library. 

The Great School Libraries campaign will continue to work to embed the role of school library staff in the educational landscape and ensure that all children in the UK can access the benefits of a great school library. We will work with educational organisations to build understanding of the impact that school libraries and their staff can have on students’ attainment and progress and to support headteachers and senior leaders to establish and develop a great school library, staffed by great school librarians. 

More information about the campaign and this research can be found at: https://www.greatschoollibraries.org.uk/