Saturday, 17 January 2015

Reading and traditional school #libraries

What is more important, keeping a traditional school library or putting books into the hands of the children?

This is not as simple as it seems. Which librarian would want to keep a room full of unused books if they had the opportunity to give those books to children who do not have the opportunity to have access to books anywhere else? Why in this instance would you demand that the Dewey system was the best way forward?

I have read many articles including this one on " why I won't ditch Dewey" and I wholeheartedly agree with all of them. We should teach the children to use the library properly, but what if that is not possible now and getting the books into children's hands is? I have also read Successful school libraries which demonstrates good practice but what if all this is still not possible. 

We help support all school libraries in our area, and up till now they have all had traditional library spaces. We have one small primary school that is really focused on improving literacy in the school and has an infant and junior library. They are asking us to change the 'traditional' set up of infant library resources and this is my dilemma. 

The infant library is tiny and in a corridor and there is nowhere else to put it. It is not very accessible and cannot be used for class visits. We have discussed a redesign that would allow it to be more open but financially that is not possible. Last summer they asked us to split the library up and put bits of it into each infant classroom making the resources available to the children in the classrooms but we were not keen to encourage this as it would reduce the amount of access each child had to all the books. We also felt that a tiny library is better than no library at all!

As I have already said they have a wonderful reading scheme for the infants that is used heavily, children are given a colour banding and encouraged to swap books within that band, there are both fiction and non-fiction books in this scheme. These books are in the library and the children are used to going and choosing books from there. This is done before school, usually with their parents but they are never encouraged to choose from the library stock. There are several reasons for this but mainly they are difficult to access when a lot of children are in the small space and the parents know if their child had been given a red colour banding that if they choose it from that box they are doing the right thing and its easy. 

I have therefore suggested that we add the library books into the reading scheme so that the children get more selection and the library books are just not sitting on shelves. In order for this to work we need to ensure that any teacher who did use non-fiction books from the library as a resource within a topic is encouraged to issued these books to themselves and take them to the classroom. This will need to be monitored as it depends on how many there are as we still may have to store them in the library space. This is could be a better solution anyway as the children will see the teachers using the library too. 

I am not sure if I have agreed to do the right thing. On one level this seems right. By putting them into the reading scheme we are giving more choice and there will be a chance that the books are read. On the other hand this is not a 'traditional' library and it will be impossible to run library skills lessons, if we ever get the chance to do this, as nothing will be in traditional order therefore really difficult to find. Banding them will just mean that on the catalogue they will just be in the 'red' section. At this point in time we are a long way off from teaching basic library skills lessons to these infants. 

The positive of this is that the school has agreed to do transition library lessons from yr2 to yr3 so that in the juniors they will learn what a traditional library is like and have the skills taught then. This can be built on and feels very positive. 

I'm not sure if any of this makes sense but your comments would be appreciated.