Sunday, 28 October 2012

Mass Lobby for School Libraries

Tomorrow there will be a large group of dedicated school librarians travelling to London to Lobby their MPs about the importance of school libraries for everyone, here is their press release . It is a little known fact that while it is statutory for a prison to have a library it is not statutory for schools to have one. There is overwhelming evidence that the presence of a well stocked library staffed with a trained librarian makes a huge positive impact on teaching and learning within schools right across the curriculum.

Last week I heard that I'd got my first professional position as a school librarian. I have worked in libraries for over 11 years, in both the public and the academic sector but I had increasingly felt the draw of the school library over this time. School is the one place that everyone attends, it's the one golden opportunity to get children really enthused about reading and to introduce them to the information habits that are now vital for our new information society. School librarians are in a unique position to support both of these goals- they inhabit a space where learning can be spontaneous, where children can dream and explore their interests and where they will find a keen adult reader who can guide them to just the right book for them at just the right time.

My new job is in a top independent prep school. If you want to have a career as a school librarian I have discovered that unless you are unbelievably lucky you will not find a state funded school near you with a position going, especially in the primary school sector. Even if there is a library in your local state school often the positions are paid at an unprofessional rate even though most school librarians will have degrees, further degrees in information and library studies and in a lot of cases they will have gone through the chartership process of our professional body CILIP. There is a school librarian network group on Yahoo where there are frequent mentions of job adverts offering pay so below the School Library Association's pay scales that people regularly report the schools to the SLA who then send them information on more appropriate wages. Yet there are often posts on the network from young and newly qualified school librarians who are so keen and passionate about school librarianship that they accept these low paid positions. Sadly it is also true that if a school doesn't 'value' a librarian enough to pay them a professionally appropriate wage it is also often true that they don't then allow that librarian to be a fully respected member of their staff. Over the past few years of researching the school library sector I have heard frequent stories about librarians not being welcome in staff meetings, not being told about new initiatives in the school and generally being sidelined into the library space.

To make it clear I believe that every child should have school library in their school, staffed by a school librarian who is supported by the school at every level.

Independent schools know how important this is for their students, that is why they are prepared to pay for a library and librarian. As tax payers we should demand that all schools are able to support a school library for ALL children. Nick Gibb, Minister of State for Schools, has said that he believes that every school should have a school library but that it is not his responsibility to make it statutory for them to have one. The librarians lobbying MPs this half term are asking for the government to think again.

I am SO excited about my new job, I can't wait to meet the children and the staff and to start conversations with them all about what they want to read, what they love to read and what they need to read to achieve whatever goals they have set themselves. I am planning on continuing to be voluntary librarian at my son's state primary school though because I want him and his school to have access to the very latest high quality books for children professionally selected with the needs of the individual school community considered.

Good luck to the school librarians and supporters lobbying their MPs tomorrow and thank you for campaigning for all children to have access to the service that they deserve and need.

Supporters can sign up on Facebook at Mass Lobby for School Libraries or follow progress on Twitter by following @lobby4schlib and these hashtags #lobby4schlib  #shoutabout

Thursday, 25 October 2012


The Dewey Decimal system is the classification system still used by most public and school libraries and yet even the slightest mention of it can strike fear in to the heart of your library users. I came across this rather awesome video a few years back, it was made by an American ILS student as part of his course and became so popular that he now travels around American schools as Melvil Dewey rapping about library services! I think that watching this is an excellent introduction to what can seem like a daunting system to a lot of people. Check it out...

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

We wished upon a star and...

One of the first things that I did after getting involved in our school library was to set up a library wish list on Amazon. There was a bit of a debate about the ethics of using Amazon given the modern pressure on bookshops but we decided that an Amazon wish list was probably the easiest way of setting up a suitable place for parents and friends to find a list of titles that we were keen to add. When we put out a reminder about it (at Xmas and before the end of term) we remind people that they are free to buy books elsewhere and let us know so that we can remove them off the list and this does happen so I think it works pretty well.

At the end of last term we had more people than ever donating books to the school, especially when they had children leaving the school. I found out yesterday though that someone (who wishes to remain anonymous) has bought everything that was left (and available to order) on the wish list-  that's over 100 books! We're all enormously touched and the kids are going to be very very lucky this year :). All in all we've had nearly 200 books donated to the school library since I set up the list. (School librarians- it's worth having a list because you never know, someday your wishes might just come true!)

So I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has donated books to the school library this year, by donating to the library you've given something to the whole school and to all our future readers.

Look at some of the awesome new books that will soon grace our shelves (I am so, so glad that I weeded!)

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Back to school with Mr Duvet Slug

"The Big Jump!"
We've only recently discovered the books of Rebecca Patterson in our house but she already has become a firm favourite. Last week I <ahem> accidentally found myself in Foyles and <ahem> accidentally found a copy of "Not On a School Night". Mr E. (age 6) immediately opened it up and started reading it and the bookseller had to scan it while he was reading it as he wasn't going to stop- he was laughing too much. All the way home he was reading it over and over while walking down the street and when we picked Mr S. (age 3) up from nursery he looked through it in his buggy and the two of them laughed, and laughed and laughed!

It was this page that made all of us laugh the hardest and it has been staged most nights in their bedroom ever since....

Mr S Duvet Slug

We've only had another one of Patterson's books "My Big Shouting Day!" for a few months but it has become such a part of our lives now that all you have to say is "Mr S. was having a Big Shouting Day" and everyone knows exactly what you mean.

What is so brilliant about Patterson's work is the humour and the depth of insight- you instantly identify with the situations in these books and they are seen as ridiculous and hilarious by both child and parent alike. Being able to laugh at these points of family tension and at yourself is a very important lesson for us all. I love the look on the face of the mum in the photo above- that is exactly how I feel when I have to deal with bedtime shenanigans. At the end of the book there's a double page spread depicting "Saturday morning"- tired parents in pyjamas, a house covered in toys, boys leaping everywhere. Picture books that so accurately depict family life are reassuring.

There aren't many picture books that portray temper tantrums in the way that "My Big Shouting Day" does and yet they are such a part of the lives of young children, parents, early years teachers and long suffering siblings and they can be very stressful for everyone involved. Alfie's little sister Annie Rose has a memorable tantrum in "Annie Rose Is My Little Sister" by the incredible Shirley Hughes and last night when I was reading Helen Cooper's "Delicious" we noticed that the duck throws one over the flavour of the soup. Mr S. had a Big Shouting Day a few weeks ago and Mr E. and I were able to joke about it by quoting lines from Patterson's book. This definitely helped us get through the day and strangely enough Mr S. stopped at one point mid-scream and joined in with "I have a hurting foot!". It didn't stop him carrying on with the scream of course but he knew, and we knew that he knew that he was being ridiculous and this did genuinely help!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

The joy of weeding

Danny Kendall R.I.P.
I've spent quite a bit of time this summer holiday weeding the stock in my son's primary school library. The library was set up by the PTA about four years ago and is run and funded by the PTA on a voluntary basis. I'm not completely sure where all of the books came from when it was set up as my eldest son is only in Yr 1 so I wasn't around when it was opened. My guess is that quite a few of the books were gathered from classrooms at that time and added to the brand spanking new books because there was some rather ancient books on our fiction shelves when I got my hands on them. I was most amused by a Grange Hill book with a photo of Danny Kendall on the front, I'm pretty sure that the show was axed before any of the children in the school were born!

Many classic titles fell into the category of "never been borrowed" but their covers were so old, faded and tatty that it's hardly surprising. These neglected classics included The Secret Garden, Peter Pan, The Railway Children, Swallows and Amazons and Alice in Wonderland. My cunning plan is to restock these titles using the lush new Vintage  Children's Classics in order to encourage issues- for example this
will be replaced by
Vintage have produced a lush new website to support the new classic editions which is well worth checking out and sharing with your kids as it's awesome and should inspire them to pick some of these great books up

It's amazing how much better the shelves and picture book boxes look after a good weed though, it's so true that the books that are left look newer and more appealing without the old stock cluttering up the place and of course there is now plenty of room for the gorgeous new books that we will be ordering very soon :)