One of our dedicated PSAs, Anna Grant, was asked recently to write a blog for the Scottish Book Trust. They had heard about the fantastic work she’d been doing with the Junior Librarians at Craigentinny. The Book Trust were so impressed, they are sending the school some new books as a thank you! We have attached the blog below:
Craigentinny Primary’s library is buzzing. Every day there is a steady stream of children and staff using the space to work in small groups, to hunt out topic resources and, most importantly, to read. It’s especially lovely to see because it has not always been so.
When I began working in the school library in September last year, the school management had recently appointed a set of junior librarians for the first time. I met with them weekly, and we spent Wednesday afternoons holed up in the library devising new and exciting ways for pupils to use the space and to encourage more people to take books out.
The reason for this innovative approach was simple: our school was incredibly lucky to have the space and resources of our library, but it was sadly underused. There weren’t enough staffing resources to have someone dedicated to tackling and maintaining the shelves and displays, and although each class had a timetabled slot each week to use the library, this was not often materialised into library time. Our management team knew the importance of children reading for pleasure, and devised an innovative strategy to turn the library around: junior librarians. And so applications forms were filled out, interviews were held and finally, the librarians were appointed. It was important to get children who were passionate about reading, and they were asked how often they read and who their favourite authors were in the interview process. Enthusiasm about reading was crucial if the plan was to succeed.
The pupils were all P6 and P7 pupils. Most were keen readers already, but not all. It’s been a wonderful opportunity for the children to make a valuable contribution to the library, irrespective of ability. Some of our librarians are boys. It was so important to get a diverse group of kids, that the rest of the school felt they could approach. When asked to reflect on their experiences applying to and working in the library, universally all the pupils involved agree that it’s been a hugely positive and rewarding experience. “The reason I wanted to become a librarian is that I love to read, and wanted to help others enjoy reading as much as me”, recalls one pupil.
We set to work. The junior librarians (all eight of them) familiarised themselves with the Dewey Decimal Classification and tackled the mammoth task of labelling and organising our shelves. Previously, the fiction shelves had been organised by classes (P1-2, P3-4, P5+), but we made the decision to re-name them in order to remove any stigma and encourage pupils to read outside of their comfort zone, and now we have ‘Short Books’, ‘Chapter Books’ and ‘Novels’. Chats about our favourite book shops led us to front-face many of our titles, as some pupils found rows of spines with no visual clues overwhelming. The tops of our shelves were decorated by hardback picture books, creating the effect of being totally surrounded by a world of pictures and stories. We pleaded and begged the local community to donate their unwanted books to our cause. And slowly but surely, our library was transformed.
The junior librarians embraced their new roles in the school, and have consistently surprised us all with their level of dedication. Every week they have a period of time in which they sort and tidy the library, but this is the just the tip of their responsibilities. They drew up a rota and have all sacrificed lunchtimes to ensure that the library is manned for younger children to use. Whenever we receive a donation of books, they make sure that it’s been acknowledged with a handwritten note of thanks. Diligently, they restock and rotate the library books in each classroom, to ensure that the other pupils have the opportunity to read new books in class.
One of the reasons the library is so successful now is the dynamic between the younger students and the older librarians. Instead of teachers dragging their classes into the library, the pupils are choosing to visit it in their lunchtimes to interact with their P7 role models and listen to their book recommendations. They enjoy spending time with the older children, and in turn the librarians get a huge amount of satisfaction from seeing the younger pupils enjoy books they’ve shown them, or reading to the smallest children in our school.
Everyone in the school agrees that the library has undergone something of a transformation in the last year, and it’s been such a privilege to be part of these exciting changes. The library shelves are now full of new titles, mostly generous donations from our local community. Children of all ages are visiting the space and borrowing books more regularly. Through our ‘Librarian Recommended’ bookmarks, we’re seeing children picking up and reading books their peers have suggested.
The journey is not over. We’re still making improvements and tweaking ideas: only this week we’ve introduced a weekly competition based on crosswords and quizzes from children’s newspapers, which is accessed and handed in to the library. We’re continually asking for more book donations to give our readers a larger and more diverse library catalogue. A new category of graphic novels and comics is our next target.
In this last term, one of their most important jobs will be finding their replacements: they’ll be designing an application form for the new P6s and P7s and interviewing appropriate candidates before training up their successors. It seems only fitting that they take such a proactive role in choosing the custodians of the librarian legacy they’ll be leaving behind.