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Jane Spall

Jane Spall

Aith Junior High School (www.aith.shetland.sch.uk)

Shetland Library Executive Manager Karen Fraser says:  “We have an integrated school and public library service in Shetland and our rural school libraries effectively function as the public library for young people, as well as meeting all the school needs. Jane has succeeded in keeping her library right at the heart of the school and of the community, through her sheer enthusiasm for her job.”

Jane SpallAith Junior High School in Shetland has 182 students from nursery to 16 years old. The library is built out of a former gym and is divided into areas to serve all years.  It is used heavily at lunch - time and throughout the day by classes.  It is open on school days from 8.30 to 15.30. Jane sees all the students and also services six primary school libraries. These small rural schools cover a wide area including a remote island on Shetland’s west side. Jane helps maintain their libraries and arranges regular deliveries of project books and resources in consultation with staff at each school.

Jane is not a professional librarian but has been in her job for over 20 years and undertaken regular training and professional development. She networks with both school and library staff and so has kept up with a great deal of change both in Scottish education and in the work of libraries.

All Shetland’s junior high school libraries are run by the integrated public/school service, which employs Jane and provides her budget. With a shrinking book budget, the school and public libraries work together, constantly supplying each other with resources. Online information services such as Britannica, Know UK, Complete Issues and Oxford Online are subscribed to for the whole organisation and Jane uses these and promotes them to staff and students. Jane issues a remarkable 200 books per week in a school of only 180 students.

All classes in the school have timetabled periods and a boy with ASN  (Additional Support Needs) did work experience under a programme designed and supervised by Jane.  He has now gone on to do a placement at the public library following the success of his experience in Aith. In the Spring Term S2 have a research project in Science. Jane provides websites and resources and teaches information literacy skills for these classes, and in all other years. In S4 there is an optional study skills course and the whole cohort enrol for it.

At the beginning of each academic year Jane receives information about lessons and topic lists from all Departments and Primary Schools and then orders what is needed throughout the year.

Jane Spall with studentsJane’s work plans have clearly defined outcomes. This means she describes the result she is working towards and success is measured by the real difference made. Projects are therefore clearly evaluated by results. Jane is proud that by the end of the primary school the children are all independent learners, so that all that is required is reinforcement of the skills in the secondary school; she believes that creative and fun activities encourage learning.

Jane actively promotes reading for pleasure. She asks children for suggestions, runs book fairs and arranged a book launch for local author Marsali Taylor. She also hosted a popular visit by Martin Brown, the ‘Horrible Histories’ illustrator. A board in the library displays responses to the question: “How does reading make you feel?” Answers range from ‘relaxed’, ‘calm’ and ‘happy’ to ‘excited’ and ‘amazing!’

Jane has designed a differentiated book review sheet, to extend AR (the Accelerated Reading programme), which is used in the Primary and promoted by the Principal teacher. A ‘story sacks’ project pairs S1 (age 12) with P1 (age 5) children - this project encourages problem solving through play, independent thinking and cross curricular literacy.  Jane collects evidence of her impact on reading through AR statistics and jointly evaluating projects with teachers. She knows the children and what they read and can promote this through their class visits.

The whole community knows her and she is welcomed by all – although she does not live in Aith herself. She will be opening part of the library to the local community in October - there is already a section of stock offering materials for parents. Jane describes her drive to work as one of the many highlights of the job: “It is 15 miles of single track roads, winding up and down hills, dodging many sheep - but it’s beautiful. Stunning scenery both summer and winter.”

Jane’s vision is to have a bigger learning suite with more scanners, printers, computers and tablets, more new stock, magazines and to expand the parents’ section. She would like a craft club and that would be a start!

Michael Spence, Head Teacher says:  “Jane is at the heart of the school and has an infectious enthusiasm for books and the development of literacy. She uses her role to support and inspire all the pupils in the school and we all have our fingers crossed for her success at the awards ceremony in October.”

Pupils say:  “No one at school thinks that reading is uncool!”