Recently the subject of libraries in Primary Schools has been discussed on Twitter. Rob asked the question: Does your primary school have a fully functioning library? The results were varied. Almost a quarter of the votes indicated no library at all, whilst 30% could only describe a room with books in.
With the challenges of ever decreasing budgets year on year, many schools are feeling the need to put libraries on the back burner. As a school’s current stock wears out, where does the money come from to re-stock? How can a school manage a library when staff for interventions are hard to come by? This was a challenge faced by my school – solved through creative staffing and accessing nationally available grant schemes.
On first entering my new school I was greeted with an impressive space. Windows all the way around, a library of sorts. Originally the space was the connecting area between the Infant and Junior departments. After the initial first impression of space, it became clear that this area was wasted. There was no clear purpose to it. A brick “bench” resembling a bus stop had been built in the middle of the area, giving it a Doctor’s waiting room feel. There was work to be done. Many of the books were tired – publication dates identifying them as older than most of the staff.
As a school, we couldn’t allocate enough funding to refit the library as we wanted to – and we didn’t want a half-done job. I began to investigate alternative funding options, and after an open question on Twitter, found the Foyle’s Foundation (I think thanks for this go to @LibWithAttitude)
The process was fairly simple. Within the application form I highlighted our challenging social circumstances, using quotes from the School Development Plan as well as percentages of Pupil Premium students and EAL. I also used quotes from our most recent inspection reports to show that reading was a priority.
Another important factor in the application process was how the library would be sustained. We have an enthusiastic PTFA who have donated furniture for the library. Part of the process also required us to indicate how the library could benefit the wider community. To support this a member of staff opens the library after school once a week for families to loan books.
The shopping list was the most exciting part – Madeleine Lindley were fantastic. I gave them my budget and they built a library for me!
After a wait of several months, we heard that we had been successful. To prepare for our new resources, we invested in the structure of the library. This involved getting our caretaker on side to remove seating, and tasking a lunch time organiser to paint a mural. We had an official opening which we invited parents to. We wanted a community ownership feel from the start.
We are all now proud of our new library. The children have bought into it, and want to look after the resources. We have too many children wanting to be librarians and have to have a waiting list. The entrance to our school is now impressive and purposeful – thanks to a grant from the Foyle’s Foundation and the hard work of our school staff.
Blog by Angela Goodman
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