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On 21 January 2009, SCBWI Central East Region and the Ipswich Children's Book Group held a joint meeting at Broke Hall School (Ipswich) to hear from two Suffolk schools librarians. Jayne Gould and Alison Baker were kind enough to come and talk about themselves and their libraries.

A Tale of Two Libraries: how different school libraries work

The Stoke High School Library operates from a single room, but is a school library and a public branch library. It has two sets of staff (one for each function) and two sets of stock, although the stamped school stock is interfiled. Alison Baker is the Stoke High School librarian and has worked there for over 10 years. She started as a branch librarian before moving to the school side when they needed a chartered librarian.

Broke Hall School Library is not shut away in a separate room, but part of a school thoroughfare so most children pass through it every day. It has grown alongside the expansion of the school (which now has over 600 children) and has had a librarian, Jayne Gould, since 2000 (she was previously a children's bookseller at the Ancient House, Ipswich). The library has over 15,000 books on its catalogue and is one of the largest school libraries in Suffolk. It is one of the few that has a dedicated librarian.

Book Fairies: How Books Appear on the Shelves

Both librarians listen to what students ask for - suggestion cards are also used for students to write down books, authors or topics they want stocked. Children need feel they have ownership of the library and are encouraged to talk about what they read.

Pupils talk to each other about the books they read, so that often filters through to requests for stock. Children are often influenced by the display in Waterstone’s, WH Smith and Tesco.

Authors’ visits have a very profound effect on borrowing which extends far beyond the few weeks after their visit, for example, even a year after her visit to Stoke High School, Anne Cassidy’s books continue to be in great demand (there is already a long waiting list for her new book).

Film and TV adaptations have a huge influence too. They often draw in new readers and encourage existing readers to challenge themselves with longer books.

The greatest challenge is keeping up-to-date with what is being published. A lot of decisions about stock are made on the basis of reviews and children's books magazines (like Carousel - http://www.carouselguide.co.uk/). Jayne's background as a bookseller and membership of the local Children's Book Group has proved invaluable.

Gaps in stocks are always highlighted when students undertake individual or group projects on "what interests them." Alison tries to suggest students pick their projects only after they've looked on the shelves. But students still challenge the libraries with eclectic or esoteric requests, for example, books on boxing, or slugs and snails. When projects are about exotic animals, reference works can be hard to source, for example, books on Golden Tamarins.

Ultimately, librarians seem to work on gut instinct and knowing the children in their school. Budgets are obviously an issue and some creativity is needed in building up stocks, for example, feeding in commission from book fairs and adding the occasional review copy to the library.

Coming soon - Part 2: Keepers of Books. Watch this blog!

To read an extended version of the entry visit: http://benjaminscottauthor.wordpress.com/2009/04/03/school-librarians-revealed-part-1-%e2%80%93-book-fairies-and-golden-tamarins/


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Apr. 5th, 2009 12:21 am (UTC)
thanks for this, ben - i really wanted to attend the event and am glad you're blogging about it. my best memories of school was of borrowing far too many books at the school library to the point that my mum secretly had a go at the librarian - if only my librarian knew what a lifelong influence she has had on me! school librarians rock! thank you!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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