Six months. 3000 books. 1300 boys. 1 Library.
So, my new job has kept me rather busy, creating a library from scratch… It’s a pretty unusual and exciting task – a blank canvas, with shelving for around 14,000 books (measuring shelves with a tape measure not something I’d done before!), a hard-working sixth form – they have even been known to shh themselves – who had been using its 100-or-so computer terminals for independent study (when I arrived the library was not yet open to the rest of the school), a newly installed, empty catalogue system, security gates (but no books), and ME – fresh out of library school, never worked in a school before, first professional library post – handed the keys to the library kingdom – deep breath – start planning.
First things first – consult with the staff and the boys: liaising with all the heads of department about what resources they’d like, going to meetings with senior staff (really fortunate to have access to a great senior management team), and going into forms to talk to the boys to find out what their favourite books and authors are, what they like to read, and what their ideal library would be like. Loads of ideas, loads of scope for making a really awesome library. Visit another local school and get some much-needed advice from their calm and lovely librarian: “it’s like a garden, there’s always something new to be done, it’s never finished”. Add to that a couple of visiting business grads doing their MA project on library development and there’s a good mix of research to draw on!
Armed with suggestions from staff, boys, fellow librarians and friends, the next thing was to find a good book supplier and get a good deal! Throw in a bevy of boxes of books from the old library and the departments’ subject bookcases, and a nice big order of fiction before the summer, and that was me set to sort, label and catalogue like I’ve never catalogued before.
Empty corridors in the summer holidays – zombie apocalypse? The effect is slightly spoiled by the backdrop of kids’ holiday club!
Summer in the library = greenhouse effect, lots of Radio 2, dusty boxes, mountains of books.
Two months, a lot of labels, and 2000 catalogue records later:
- One sturdy fiction section (directly informed by the boys’ choices)
- Recommended reads for sixth form
- A fledgling non-fiction section
Also: I never thought I’d be so proud of a catalogue, but when you spend so much time with something and every record has been created by you, you can’t help but feel attached! Plus there’s an X-marks-the-spot treasure map for pinpointing the book’s location in the library, which is just cool.
Oh, AND: Write an acquisitions policy, figure out the circulations policy – which turns out to be way more complicated than it sounds – test out what the catalogue can do and make sure you can actually use it, solidify the library rules; try and create Powerpoint presentations that makes all this exciting and accessible for 11 year olds in twenty minutes. Go!
September rolls around, the boys flood back to school, and suddenly it’s showtime with an entire school to induct into the library. My first assembly of the year was with 300 17-18 year olds: not an audience I’d ever presented to before! Two weeks and seven year groups (1300 boys) later, I was getting on a bit of a roll with my “how to use the library – here’s what the catalogue can do” spiel. The best bit was when the lower school came into the library for the first time and ransacked the place for books – a whirlwind of readerly excitement at the end of which my shelves were somewhat decimated, but I had about a third of the school who had taken out books so I didn’t mind – whoever said boys don’t read enough?!
My Y8s started writing book reviews unprompted, pretty much every day I have book requests via the library site (I am also building a virtual library presence on the e-learning side of things which is great fun – access to the catalogue, guides, and lots of links to resources), and my reserve shelf is bristling with books that the boys are clamouring to get hold of (“I can’t believe you’ve got this one, it only came out this week!) I’ve been immersed in the world of children’s and young adult fiction once again – one boy wondered if I’d read all the books in the library because “everything I mention you seem to know everything about” – and that’s my job, how awesome.
NB: I have not read every book in the library (yet), but my memory for author names is serving me well in the knowledgeable librarian stakes….
I’m also really excited about the possibility of online resource subscriptions and encouraging a different kind of research approach across the school – we’re trialling databases and the real challenge will be getting this research mentality and information skills entrenched. Faced with a generation of cut-and-pasting Googlers -some of whom have never seen an index- there’s a tasty info-lit challenge to be had: a definite long-term goal!
So I’m now four weeks shy of Christmas and the boys show no sign of abating with their reading, their borrowing, or their general enthusiasm. It’s early days, but the shelves are gradually getting populated, and the books’ date labels are filling with stamps!
On next term’s agenda – pupil librarians and book club…