Are Northern Ireland School Libraries failing our LGBT Youth?

Hmophobia is preventable in schoolOn a Wednesday evening during Belfast Pride I attended a Unison sponsored event ‘on whether our Northern Ireland School Libraries are failing our LGBT Youth?’

After a warm welcome by Fidelma Carolan, we were then given a wonderful presentation by Sally Bridge on the results of her research project undertaken whilst she was at university and completed in 2010.

The audience was actively involved, asking penetrating and supporting questions to expand and to add personal observations to what was already an exciting report.

The report highlighted the following areas of concern:

  • That the school library is seen as a safe haven, but librarians are not trained in providing this space and supporting it.
  • That 84% of schools either have no (52%) or don’t now (32%) if the school anti-bullying policies encompass homophobic bullying.
  • That 20% of libraries felt it was not appropriate to provide LGBT information in a school library; but of the 80% who were, 74% reported that they had no LGBT information in their library.
  • That the DENI circular on Relationships and Sexuality Education Policy in Schools has placed homosexuality in the middle of diseases and pornography, thus further seeming to stigmatized the LGBT community and its youth.
  • 76% of LGBT teenagers did not take part in any discussion about homosexuality whilst attending education.
  • School internal filtering software prevents access to positive LGBT information sites such as GlYNI, Rainbow etc; and as a consequence LGBT youth in education do not feel secure using school facilities in relation to their LGBT needs.

After the presentation the audience then moved into a more informal setting which enabled open discussion, and the exchanging of personal stories and observations.

The NI School LIbrary Service had very kindly organised for two librarians to be at the meeting, and they were in a position to answer some questions, and to expand on some of the findings.  The worrying factor is that it would seem that the School Library service is being run down, and that the role of the school librarian is disappearing with the service, where it will be run, being undertaken by untrained staff or overworked teachers – even dare I say school students who volunteer.

A full copy of the report can be viewed here:   [button_icon icon=”document-word” url=”https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=7&cad=rja&ved=0CFkQFjAG&url=http%3A%2F%2Fcadair.aber.ac.uk%2Fdspace%2Fbitstream%2F2160%2F5714%2F1%2FThesis.doc&ei=Lv3_Ub64EY2n0wWI0YHICQ&usg=AFQjCNF4JKGGrti_m3IOUCDxw9h9e6rR3Q&sig2=KpcSTaSLr12ATkUKm2hVpA&bvm=bv.50165853,d.d2k” blank=”true”]Are NI school libraries failing our LGB&T youth? [/button_icon]

At the end of the evening, it was agreed that a focus group/pressure group would be formed to monitor and to help schools and Government realise that LGBT youth need full support and protection in our schools, and that the school library is fundamental in the provision of this.

This presentation will also be provided during the Newry Pride – all will be welcome to the Unison sponsored presentation, and I hope you will attend.

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