Page 12 - Independent Schools Magazine
P. 12

“Social media has its place and that is away from the thriving interactive hub we have created...”
The evolving role of a library, not just a place to read books!
Julie Littler, librarian at Abbey Gate College, Cheshire, discusses how important it is to get the right provision for pupils in terms of lunchtime activities and the active role a library can play.
 “Some young people live with their head in a book; transported to different worlds,  ghting dragons, kayaking down the Amazon or learning how to breathe again after their  rst broken heart.
Some become habitual memory sponges for the eating habits of a narwhal or short-tailed chinchilla. It thrills me that school libraries have incredibly successful book loan schemes and reading clubs. However, we must never neglect those who use the library as a comforting cover story or a security blanket. School libraries are so much more than books on shelves.
“At lunchtimes they are a go-to area for those who may not be drawn to the football or hockey pitch and those who may or may not have the con dence to walk into a science club or debating society. Many students come alone, so the welcome needs to
be warm but not overpowering. Having weekly themes and printed quizzes (with a supply of pencils and chocolate for prizes) available by the door enables a purpose for each student to walk in and feel occupied. Then once they are in,
a supply of reassuringly consistent and also fresh, engaging activities await them.
“A weekly chess club, hosted by friendly Sixth Formers, grows in its popularity, but a selection
of board games based on luck rather than skill is more inclusive.
Maybe started by the librarian yet often easy to leave unsupervised once individuals have joined and exchange is underway. Other constantly accessible ideas include puzzle books, monthly prize- winning activity sheets known as the ‘I’m Smarter Than You and
I Like Chocolate’ quiz, advanced colouring books and pencils, a ‘Quick Pick’ section with ‘Where’s Wally?’ books, the ‘Guinness Book of Records’, the ever-popular ‘1001 Cars to Drive Before You Die’ and ‘Beano’ annuals. All of these offerings are conversation starters and the librarian can
help to nurture this and involve others. I am constantly surprised and delighted where young minds can wander to and the challenges their inquisitiveness can overcome. They have nothing to prove to a librarian. No tests to complete. Everyone is equal. Although it is
a ‘No Phone Zone’, there are no ‘Silence’ signs in our library.
“Very soon, the same faces will appear and participate in events such as candleholder making
for Diwali, ‘Cake and Classics’
and team quizzes. Teaching and support staff and students of all ages are encouraged to come along to every event. Once more, barriers are broken down, friendships are made and con dent young people emerge. Having two long-term senior library assistants and a team of younger ones serving for a
term each, it becomes a badge of honour. These quiet students are soon creating and hosting quizzes. They are presenting awards to others and come September, the circle starts once again.
“Five years ago, the library was very traditional. A good stock of books but students said that they felt uncomfortable in the silent atmosphere. An empty library is
a waste of resources and space. The weekly theme was the  rst change. Having a display area outside of the external door
was a great boost. Pushing out new themes and displays every week can be a challenge but
it keeps the library fresh and purposeful. Staff are wonderful in providing display items too. Less than 24 hours from sending out a quick email, I have offers of bagpipes, snooker tables and scuba equipment! It took the staff a short time to adjust to the new approach to the library but their support is unending and invaluable.
“On a practical level, it takes a dedicated librarian to run the library as it is. The planning, preparation and delivery of everything takes time but even just 12 hours a week, including an hour a day of contact time, can make the plan work. Devoting time to train student assistants
to properly run the loan system, process logging and backing new books is essential. Not only in assisting in time management but in enhancing the pride and respect students have for their space and facilities.
“‘Rugby Six Nations Week’ was ideal to promote health and sports injury books. Open them up too,
a closed book often doesn’t have the interaction. Get some fresh bread and Brie in for ‘French Week’. Students and staff will have to
ask for it in the correct language
of course! ‘Magic Week’ conjured up unknown talents of students and staff in an encouraging and supportive atmosphere. Year 7 students became celebrities and Geography teachers were seen in a whole new ‘cool’ light.
“Financially, as with everything else in education, it pays to be savvy. A discount on book buying is a must. Donated board games are welcome but a decent stock of quality chess sets and basic games are a real investment. Apart from that, a good supply of chocolate prizes is a great incentive. Just one pound
a week on edible rewards is money well spent.
“So yes, we have books. They
are in plentiful supply and kept right up to date with exciting
new publications arriving on a regular basis. The arrival of new books always causes a frenzy
of excitement. We talk about
the books and share favourite snippets. Sometimes throwing diverse questions into the mix. ‘How different would ‘Swallows and Amazons’ be if everyone
had a mobile phone?’ or ‘Which character from any other author would really shake things up if they were placed in Hogwarts?’ Again, after initial encouragement by
the librarian, these are all student led. Traditional printed books are
a mainstay and should always be so. It supports diversity in lifestyle. With young people being exposed to so many different situations
and their minds able to process
so much more information and ideas than ever before, sometimes we just need to approach reading differently. Students already have the imagination. Giving them the guiding hand to feel con dent
in sharing their ideas without judgment or classroom restraints is a librarian’s privilege.
“We have just two computers in the library and they are for homework only. I may research something online upon request but social media has its place and that is away from the thriving interactive hub we have created. We have a haven for all students, habitual readers
or not, where they comfortably
mix with all year groups and staff. Where the atmosphere is very much inclusive and minds and spirits are constantly enlightened.”
 ...libraries are a go-to area for those who may not be drawn to the football or hockey pitch and those who may or may not have the con dence to walk into a science club or debating society
 12 Independent Schools Magazine
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