Thursday 25 July 2013



It’s been too long since I’ve written on here … my time has been consumed by writing HPQ assessments and the result of this is to confirm my thoughts that I really don’t want to be a teacher. I love working with the students, seeing them researching their projects, growing in confidence as they progress through the taught skills and they never cease to amaze me with what they produce … but marking their work is tedious and boring. Yet there’s not one aspect of being a school librarian that I feel like that about!

As usual there’s been a lot of interesting articles about books, libraries and reading in the media but the one that got me thinking was this: in which the writer explains how she recently rediscovered the public library through illness and realised that it wasn’t just a place for readers but also for the vulnerable.

Every school librarian already knows this. When we rage against the closure of yet another school library, it’s not just because one of our colleagues is losing their job, after all as adults with many transferable skills we have other options (even if we may not be as passionate about them), it’s because we know the effect this will have on the students.

Forget the ones who don’t have any books at home so the library is their only source of reading material; forget those whose parents do not see the value of books and reading so they never take them to the public library (assuming they have one, of course); forget the ones who don’t have internet access at home so can only do their homework in the school library (and you’d be surprised how many teachers set homework that needs to be done on the internet);  forget those who have watched something on TV and just want to find out more about it; forget those who have had their curiosity peaked by one of their lessons so want to explore the subject further; or those who have a family member suffering from an illness and need to find out information about it without someone asking lots of questions; or those who have just been diagnosed with something life-changing like diabetes and want to read something that’s aimed at their level; or those struggling with their sexuality that need reassurance; or those being bullied who are looking for advice on how to cope ...  

What about those who come in every day but aren’t really bothered about the books, CDs, DVDs, computers, etc. even though they may spend their breaks sitting at a desk reading a book or magazine?  The ones who use the space as a refuge? Those who are a bit different therefore don’t quite fit in. Those who find the move to secondary school a bit scary and breaktimes overpowering so need a place of safety and security. Those who are being bullied so want to be in a place where there is another adult. Those who don’t really have a friendship group to wander around with and don’t want to be on their own … they know that they will always get a friendly welcome in the library and very often join in with activities. Those who are going through a bit of a hard time in their lives right now and just want to sit somewhere on their own at break. The smaller children who find the bigger, older students en masse a bit loud and threatening so prefer a space where numbers are restricted. Those who aren’t part of the sporty set, the arty set, the music set but can become student librarians so are part of the “library set”!

Many of these students don’t stay with you forever. They find friends, they fit in, they grow in self-assurance until one day you realise that you haven’t seen them for ages. Others stick around from year 7 to year 11 (and beyond). But where would all these children go and what would they do without the library? They’d be lost and it would take many of them a lot longer to settle at school and to feel happy and confident enough to reach their potential, if they ever did. How can you put a value on what the library means to these children and the benefits it brings to them? You can’t … it’s immeasurable … which is why people who don’t know the true worth of a library (any library) should not make financial decisions about them.