This paper was presented as part of IFLA'98 Session 158B:
School Libraries and Resource Centres: Morning Workshop
On Thursday, 20 August, 1998 at Hotel Mecure Amsterdam
Aan De Amstel, Joan Muyskenweg 10, 1096 CJ
Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Scotland Report

This report seeks to analyse the findings of the data produced for the Scottish element of this project. The report is based on Instruments 1 and 2 due to time restrictions and it includes recommendations for future actions and research in this area.


In Scotland, virtually all state secondary schools (age 11-18) have professional librarians who are referred to as "school librarians". These librarians mainly have a bachelor's degree in a subject area (e.g. history) and a postgraduate qualification in Information and Library Management or a bachelor's degree in Information and Library Management. In the private sector, there is a mixture of professional librarians, non-qualified librarians and "teacher librarians" who are teachers who spend a few hours looking after the library. Primary schools in Scotland do not have qualified librarians. The main trend affecting school librarians in Scotland is the decrease in the support which they receive from the local authority School Library Service. There has been a gradual run down in the funding of these services and this affects school librarians in that they now receive less inservice training, professional advice and loan of materials such as books and CD-ROMs. Most schools now have Internet connections and, due to a government initiative, all schools will have networked Internet access within 2 years.

Research sample

For this project, it was decided to survey only state secondary schools since primary schools in Scotland do not have school librarians and in the private sector, some schools do not have qualified librarians. As the aim was to survey about 200 schools, with the hope of a 40% response rate from both school librarians and headteachers (i.e. principals), questionnaires were sent out to 50% of all Scottish secondary schools. The method used was to choose every alternate school listed by educational authority in the educational guide "Educational Authorities Directory" 1998. This ensured that an equal balance of urban and rural schools was chosen. There was no attempt to balance the choice of Catholic schools, which are found mainly in the west of Scotland, in the sample. 200 schools were sent 2 questionnaires and the response rate was 44 i.e. 22% for both headteachers and school librarians. A total of 75 school librarians returned questionnaires but data was only included where 2 questionnaires were returned from the school. In some areas, permission had to be gained from the local authority before questionnaires were sent out.

Survey administration

In each school, a questionnaire was sent to the headteacher and the school librarian in separate enveloped - mainly to ensure that the school librarian actually received the questionnaire. A stamped addressed reply envelope was included with the school librarian's questionnaire and the headteacher was asked to forward his/her questionnaire to the school librarian for return. On reflection, this was not a good idea. In only a few cases did the school librarian return both questionnaires. In most cases, the school librarian returned her questionnaire in one envelope and the headteacher's questionnaire was returned separately. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this ignored the politics of the school in that the headteacher is the senior manager in the school and, in most schools, the school librarian has the status of a class teacher i.e. is not even a head of department. It was clear that headteachers were, in most cases, not prepared to let the school librarian see what they had written. There has, however, been no systematic check on this point amongst the schools. If the survey was done again, a separate stamped addressed reply envelope would be provided for the headteachers as well as the school librarian.

There were some problems with the wording of a minority of the questions. For example, there appeared to be some confusion about what constituted an Internet connections and Internet points in the school. As an incentive to schools to return both questionnaires, a British Telecom fax machine was offered as a prize for the school chosen from a prize draw consisting of all schools who sent back 2 questionnaires. British Telecom provided the fax machine in the form of sponsorship and a leaflet about the company's educational service was provided with each questionnaire. The data input, which was done by one of the author's students, took 25 hours and there were no problems with the data input.

Survey results

(a) School profile
The schools returning both questionnaires tended to be the larger secondary schools in Scotland, with 42% having over 1000 pupils (i.e. students) and 38% having 600-999 pupils. In terms of staffing, 69% have between 60 and 100 staff. These figures are likely to be higher than the national average in terms of size of school. 90% of schools had 1 school librarian and only 2.4% have 2 school librarians. 44% of the schools are urban and 56% are rural. Thus the schools profiled in the project do reflect the urban/rural split in Scotland.

(b) School librarian profile
In the survey, 42% of school librarians were aged 40-49 and an equal percentage were aged 20-39 but these figures are unlikely to reflect the national profile which would show a higher percentage of younger school librarians. In addition, 21% were male which does not reflect the gender balance of school librarians in Scotland. 60% of school librarians in this survey had been in their present position between 0 and 9 years and 40% between 10 and 19 years. In the author's experience, this latter figure appears to be very high and does not reflect the national profile. Virtually all the school librarians were graduates with some having postgraduate qualifications. Only 2.4% were members of a listserv and this reflects the absence of a listserv for UK school librarians. In terms of professional reading, 75% read 1 journal and 50% 2 or 3 journals.

(c) Headteacher profile
The age range of headteachers (58% between 40 and 49) is likely to reflect the national profile as is the 86% male figure and the experience in terms of teaching and senior management. Headteachers were, in general, used to working with school librarians as 75% of them had worked with either 1 or 2 school librarians since becoming a headteacher.

(d) Time spent on tasks
Overall, the school librarians believed that their headteachers should spend more time in the future than at present on most of the tasks but in particular, on

It was clear from the analysis that there was a difference in perception between school librarians and headteachers about the amount of time spent on tasks. Headteachers saw themselves as spending more time on the tasks listed than did the school librarians. However, despite this, it is interesting to note here that the principals agreed that they should spend more time in the future on 12 of the above 16 categories. Although there was no significant difference in the amount of time which school librarians and headteachers thought headteachers should spend on these categories in the future, in 23 out of the 31 categories in Instrument 2, the headteacher mean for the future was in fact higher than that of the school librarian. This indicates that headteachers are aware that they should spend more time on these aspects in the future slightly more than the school librarians. This should be seen as encouraging for school librarians who therefore need to think about strategies for ensuring that the headteachers do, in fact, spend more time on these tasks in the future.

(e) Beliefs
There were some significant differences in beliefs between the school librarians and the headteachers in this study but there were also many key areas where headteachers and school librarians shared the same beliefs.

Thus there was agreement on aspects such as :

The school librarians and headteachers differed in that These disagreements are surprising to this author and it would be interesting to see if the same results occurred from a larger response. If it is true that headteachers favour dual qualifications for Scottish school librarians, then this would raise an issue that has lain dormant in the UK for a number of years. The school librarians' disagreement on the issue of cooperative planning and teaching in the library and the classroom is surprising and, if this reflects a wide held belief, is worrying. School librarians are encouraged to plan cooperatively with teachers and not just with regard to the library. Also, if headteachers do believe that school librarians should not be IT leaders in the school, then school librarians need to make headteachers more aware of their IT skills.


Although the level of response to this study in Scotland was disappointing (although not particularly unusual for a postal study), there are a number of significant issues which have been raised and the results can be seen as mainly positive, despite some differences in beliefs being found. The key recommendations which this author would make are :

This study is a valuable contribution to research in the school library/information skills area and has the potential to be of value to school librarians and headteachers in that it highlights the importance of information skills development and the key role which school librarians can play in this area.

Note : The author would like to thank British Telecom for their part sponsorship of this study and Andrew Shields for his work in data input.

IFLA IRRG Principals Project Web Site Coordinator Lyn Hay
Updated 16 September 1998.
Copyright 1998