A group of school pupils are to petition the prime minister to save school libraries arguing that "knowledge is not a privilege".
The students, who are also budding librarians, will be making a trip to 10 Downing Street to hand in letters about the importance and value of school libraries to prime minister Theresa May this Friday (16th March).
This follows a letter by library and information association CILIP, co-signed by over 150 authors, including Philip Pullman and Malorie Blackman, calling on the government to halt the decline in school library provision and the numbers of qualified librarians in state-funded schools and colleges in England.
The pupils, finalists for the Pupil Library Assistant of the Year Award, will attend a special ceremony on Friday 16th March at Portcullis House, Westminster before walking the short distance to Downing Street at 4pm. They will be accompanied by authors Tanya Landman and Steve Cole.
In the letters the pupils emphasise that knowledge is "not a privilege" and the right to learn through reading should be available to everyone.
"Knowledge is not privilege, and one cannot penalise those without privilege by taking away the means by which they can build their understanding of planet Earth", said one of the letters.
Another pupil argued that a library is an "arsenal of ideas" and many said they had used their libraries as a refuge from bullying. "In years seven and eight the school library was a place where I felt secure and safe to go at break and lunch times", said one.
Another said: "When I first joined Year 7, I was being bullied and went to the library as a safe place."
Others highlighted the opportunities that libraries provide for enhancing education. One argued: "Centres of learning which libraries provide can never be too expensive, as ignorance is a disease which we must fight."
The special ceremony for the Pupil Library Assistant of the Year Award will be attended by school librarians, authors, publishers and other names from national organisations. The award is a joint venture between the School Library Association and the CILIP School Libraries Group.
An eight-strong shortlist has been selected from a "very impressive" field of nominations from school librarians across the UK.
The eight finalists are James Belcher, Abbeyfield School, Chippenham; Colin Dowling, Moulsham High School, Chelmsford; Ed Goundrey-Smith, Sibford School, Banbury; Brougham Hardy, Belmont Community School, Durham; Maia Hipwood, Howartd of Effingham School, Leatherhead; Hannah Marsden, Ribston Hall High School, Gloucester; Destiny Rothery, Caister Academy, Great Yarmouth and Anna Heathcote Woodbridge, Derby High School.