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In support of school libraries

Author Cathy Cassidy's thoughts on the importance of school libraries:

I see a lot of school libraries on my travels around the country as a children’s author - they are often where my school events begin and end, with a chat and a coffee and a meeting with a bunch of super-keen student librarians. I’ve seen libraries that look like something out of Hogwarts, all galleried and gorgeous and smelling of wood polish and magic; I’ve seen shiny, futuristic libraries that wouldn’t look out of place on the Starship Enterprise; and of course, plenty of libraries that aren’t fancy or grand at all, but buzzing with life and filled with kids and bright with artwork and posters. Where there is a school library - and that mythical, magical creature, a school librarian - there is hope.

 

My secondary school had a library, but it was neglected and dusty, with elderly, dog-eared books and no librarian. It didn’t open at break times or lunchtimes - you could only get in there in lesson time, if an intrepid English teacher took you there. It was just a room full of books, and most of the time a locked one, which was kind of tragic, but I managed to get my book fix from three local public libraries, so all was well. Things are different now. Public libraries are closing all around us, and school libraries are a lifeline for those young people who don’t have books at home.

 

If kids hook onto the joy of reading for pleasure, the results are clear; they will do better at school, better at all kind of things, in all kinds of ways. And how do we make sure they find this crucial stepping stone to creativity, learning, life? There are lots of expensive initiatives to grade reading skills, push literacy, get kids reading, but without libraries to back them up, not one of them is worth a thing. Young people need free access to a whole variety of books from across every genre, and yet not all schools can see this. Some revamp their libraries into Learning Resource Centres, gleaming with new computers, stripped bare of fiction; some close their libraries altogether. In one school I visited recently, the head asked me if I could suggest ways to encourage reading in the school... they didn’t have a library, and seemed not to see the connection.

 

School libraries are awesome. They are a refuge for the lost, the lonely; a haven for the bookworm; a hotbed of creativity, revolution and adventure. School libraries often contain book clubs and cake and laughter, as well as shelf after shelf of brilliant stories, dreams, other worlds. They teach young people how to find their wings and fly, and without them we’d be lost.

 

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4 Comments

Posted by Alison Bagshaw on Friday 27th January 2017 at 11:54:

I am waiting for my notification of redundancy! Management have decided that they do not need any library staff who are qualified, experienced and very knowledgeable! Instead the library duties that remain will be carried out by TAs and also Cover Supervisors will be based in the LRC which will be overseen by an Assistant Head who will have an office there.

Posted by Good Fairy Librarian on Thursday 26th January 2017 at 13:42:

Sadly where I worked KS1 Library Time reading aloud pr class with families was axed in 2007.Scheme provided 20 mins per class x wkly x 40 books pr year pr child issued.Emphasis was on reading level progression as well as reading for pleasure. Decision taken by Head,Replaced by one to one reading as an when community volunteers could do this.Statistics never even came close to original scheme.With same Head KS2 Library and IT suite with qualified Librarian and full timetabled school library sessions and IL taught classes, axed and room plus allresources gutted in 2012.Last time I saw school facility in 2016 it was still in the same state-jumbled up storage space,dead furniture lying around,non designated use of space.This after 55,000 issues and Qualified Librarian timetabled services at both Key stages over 12 years to support families from village.My Secondary School counterpart could always tell which school her users had attended locally when assessing reading levels for Literacy purposes.Sadly she now faces redundancy as Librarian at her school

Posted by Lin Smith on Tuesday 24th January 2017 at 12:01:

Well done Cathy Cassidy for a great observation.What is so sad is that the approach of some SLTs who close their school library would be laughable if it were not actually a tragedy.

Posted by Sue Penny on Wednesday 18th January 2017 at 18:24:

So true.Our local authority has made all the school librarians redundant, and public libraries are few and far between.What do we have to do to make those who make these decisions realise how short-sided these cuts are, and how detrimental to children's life chances?

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