15 December 2021 Share
Founder of Abercorn School, Andrea Greystoke, speaks to the School Library Association about the vital role school libraries play in education.
Leading London school, Abercorn, is to become one of the few schools in the UK to take pupils through the complete educational journey from the age of 2 until 18, having recently acquired a new school premises allowing them to expand.
With plans for a library to be central to the new grounds, founder of Abercorn School, Andrea Greystoke, speaks to the School Library Association about the crucial part school libraries have in providing well rounded, high-quality education.
What role do school libraries play in education?
"Bad libraries build collections; good libraries build services; great libraries build communities". This is a quote from Professor R. David Lankes of the University of South Carolina, which I feel perfectly encapsulates the key role that school libraries play in learning. Certainly, this is a belief that we uphold at Abercorn, where we place significant importance on the benefits of libraries to a student’s own academic and personal development.
I firmly believe that a school library should add value and interest to a school environment, something we strive to achieve at Abercorn.
What difference can libraries make to pupils, and their learning and school experience?
All libraries are peaceful refuges from the pressures of the everyday world as well as exciting encounters with new and unfamiliar places, people, and ideas.
Libraries can extend and reinforce what is taught in the classroom; consolidating knowledge and inciting a love for learning. For example, a pupil might be asked to find out about the life of Mozart and, as a result, be inspired to discover more about Emperor Joseph II and his relationship with Mozart. A school library can satisfy this curiosity, with a wealth of information that students can draw upon at their own leisure.
Importantly, libraries also support pupils' well-being since they provide a haven away from the usual demands of everyday school life. Abercorn places a great importance on children’s wellbeing and the libraries across the premises have become an integral and enjoyable part of children’s school days.
Across the different schools you have worked with, how have you used the school library to make the most of its potential?
Libraries have been variously used for teaching, research, socialisation, individual study, and recreation. Their versatile nature places them at the heart of the learning experience.
Abercorn’s libraries are well stocked and offer a pleasing environment for our students, who are encouraged to satisfy their intellectual curiosity. This is something we will also be focusing on in our new premises, which will be spacious and suitable for an older age group.
Have there been innovative ways in which the conventional notions of a school library have been challenged in the schools you’ve worked with?
The most apparent has been the innovation of and increased dependence on IT, whether for cataloguing, research, or accessing different literary works. In an increasingly digital age, we are making use of new technologies, in addition to offering tried and tested ones. Throughout the pandemic, we have worked with all staff across all Abercorn premises to ensure that the educational experience runs as smoothly as possible. One way is through our digital outlook, as evident in Abercorn’s library.
Tell me more about plans for the new school library at Abercorn (at the new premises)? Where will it be in the school? What kind of environment are you creating?
We intend for the library to be located in a light and airy atrium near one of the main entrances to the premises. In addition to lots of printed material (books, periodicals, newspapers) there will be ample access to IT; in the form of computers, e-books and audio books. There will be an abundance of comfortable seating if pupils want to curl up and read a book, as well as desks for completing research or written tasks.
Abercorn’s new premises will seek to nurture a positive environment for our students, with its library being a central place for extending learning outside of the classroom.
What is the vision for the school library?
The new library will offer a welcoming environment that inspires reflection and contemplation. True to Abercorn’s values, the library will place a focus on the importance of pupils’ well-being, in addition to their acquisition of knowledge. The new library will offer an environment that will set students up for their future endeavours, providing them with the tools to learn from their curiosity and expand their knowledge in their own time.
What would you say is the most important thing that a library should do, for it to help equip students for the future?
To inspire a love of learning for its own sake.
Andrea Greystoke, founded Abercorn in 1987 and made history in her earlier career when she became the first ever female teacher at St Paul’s Boys School and similarly at King’s College School. Born and raised in New York and San Francisco, she was educated at Harvard University, the University of California, Berkeley and King’s College London. Based on the success of Abercorn, and her knowledge of the US system and the New York market, Andrea Greystoke also opened Abercorn’s sister school The British International School of New York in 2006.