Insights to an SLS: From Box to Shelf – Creating a New Primary School Library :: NEWS

Insights to an SLS: From Box to Shelf – Creating a New Primary School Library

18 May 2022 Share

Pat Lipinski from Gloucestershire Schools Library Service tells us about one of their recent projects.

The brand new Watermore Primary School in South Gloucestershire was completed in late 2019, joining together the previously separate infant and junior schools and just before any mention of a virus! The intention was to create a new school library that was to be a focal point for the whole school community, in the main reception area. The new building is very impressive and the school had a very clear vision for the library – that it should help create a love of reading and be enjoyed by everyone. Before my visit, the school had already bought a hosted school library management system, (LMS).

The ‘before’ photos probably say more than any words can. In late 2019, books of all types and genres from picture books to encyclopaedias had been collected from different sites, cupboards and corners but then the pandemic came…….and there they stayed.

I was the only one of my team to visit before the work started, so when Gemma and Sarah arrived on our first visit in June 2021, their faces showed a mixture of shock and slight anxiety about what they had agreed to!

Where to begin?

Phase 1 - sorting

Faced with 5,000 books, the only way to start was to sort through, book by book.

 We looked at every single book, examining for

·        Age and condition, we did not want the brand new library to be a repository for old books. any that did not meet our criteria were removed for recycling. (Guidelines are available from The SLA and other organisations).

·        Type

o   Fiction –  the staff wanted separate sections for upper and lower Key Stage 2

o   Key Stage 1, start to read fiction

o   Picture books

o   Non-fiction

·        Books were then shelved in the designated areas, ready for cataloguing and labelling

Phase 2 – cataloguing and labelling

 After discussions with the school, we had agreed upon using a simplified version of the Dewey Decimal System and used our own SLS Subject Index for non-fiction class numbers. Apart from some books not being recognised by the LMS, non-fiction raised a few questions, the cataloguing fields from the imported data base were not always consistent, we made sure that every non-fiction book had the correct Dewey number in the ‘class’ field. Non-fiction was also labelled using colour code labels to help define different subject areas.

After breaks and support from a school librarian on her summer break, all books were finally barcoded and catalogued.


Phase 3 – Shelf guides and display.

I’ve visited libraries where the books look amazing on the shelves but there is little to help staff and students work their way around them or to explain how it all works. Children have told me that it can look ‘a bit scary’.

I wanted to make sure that it would be very clear what books were where, with labels and posters wherever they would fit. I am lucky to have a creative team to support me in this but there are companies, Facebook groups and forums for teachers and librarians that have inspirational ideas.

Summer 2021 – the space is finally a library!

The final stage was delayed for many reasons, not including periods of self-isolation and a large outbreak of Covid in school but we finally completed the work during a very hot week in the summer of 2021.

You only have to look at Watermore Primary’s Facebook to see that it is a ‘reading school’, from the ‘Masked Reader’ posts to the decorated doorways. There is a real pride about the library and we are very happy to be part of their reading journey.

 I gasped when I came in this morning! Thank you and your team so much for all you did. It is unrecognisable from before! I’ve heard all the staff commenting on it on the way in and out of INSET and they are all astonished at how beautiful it looks. – Caroline, Watermore Primary School.

Key lessons learned

·        Do not underestimate the time it will take.

·        Work with the school from beginning to end.

·        Plan carefully where the books will go before you start putting them on the shelves to avoid lots of book moving!

·        If using an LMS, do not assume it is just a case of scanning the ISBN, there are certain books that need manual input. It is important to have cataloguing rules to ensure consistency.

·        Make sure that you have enough labels, we ran out several times, underestimating the amount of books.

Take lots of before and after photos!

Pat Lipinski is Librarian: Schools and Education Services at Gloucestershire County Council. You can find out more about the service they provide here.