Jan 18 2013

A Bus(wo)mans’s Holiday OR The Importance of School Libraries

Published by highlandlass at 2:06 pm under Uncategorized and tagged: , , ,

A post that has been awaiting completion for rather a long time!

Autumn is my favourite time of year… well it is after spring. I love the autumn colours except that here in Orkney we are lucky even if the leaves on the trees get to turn brown before they get blown off in the autumn gales. Having said that, there are a few pale shades of yellow around.

I was lucky enough to head south to Edinburgh recently on a work related but self funded trip to visit a school library, attend the Scottish lobby for school libraries at the Scottish Parliament and attend the School Library Association in Scotland AGM followed by visiting a good friend in Crieff. This meant I got a chance, for once, to see Autumn colour in all its glory and to get off island, even if mostly work related was like a holiday.

Flying into Edinburgh gave a bird’s eye view of a patchwork of fields with the autumn colours of the trees and woodlands looking like it had been embroidered on. Travelling into Haymarket on the bus, then onto Livingston (for the school library visit) on the train, then to the school by taxi was easy with no waiting time.

As rewarding as a school librarian’s job is and despite working with people, mostly pupils and staff, it can be a lonely job. You are isolated from other school librarians, more so when you live on an island, and therefore one really appreciates the chance meet up with others.

My first stop was James Young High School Library in Livingston. It is quite daunting going to a school of 1000 or so pupils when mine only has about 400. The remarkable thing is that our respective library’s are pretty much the same size and both are on split levels making some areas less easy to supervise, but not impossible. The great thing about visiting other school libraries and speaking with the librarians is that very quickly you become aware that we are all doing very similar things, often in different ways, but we do the same job and have a similar passion for this not always easy job. It is also an excuse to swap ideas and talk shop… continuously.

The next day meant a trip into Edinburgh from Livingstone on the train. First port of call was The ScottishParliament to meet up with other school librarians, authors, pupils and other school library supporters. We were lobbying parliament (nearly coinciding with the mass lobby the following Monday in Westminster) to voice our belief that “access to quality school library provision, including a specialist school librarian, supports children and young people’s learning and achievement across the curriculum.”

These lobbies arose due to the fact that across the UK school libraries and being threatened with closure or downsizing or professionally qualified librarians being replaced with non-professionals. The idea first originated on the School Librarian’s Network forum and it grew legs and galloped away.

The Scottish branch of the School Library Association committee then decided that we also needed to raise awareness about the importance of school libraries here in Scotland and again this galloped away andbecame a reality on the 27th October 2012. So we met outside the parliament on a bright but chilly Saturday morning and chatted with MSPs and authors and librarians and supporters. Speeches were said and placards waved. The most poynient placard said “A school without a library is a curriculum with out excellence”. The ‘new’ Scottish ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ places a lot of emphasis on skills and outcomes which are responsibility for all departments in a school, none the least Literacy. I may be┬ábiased┬ábut the school library is THE place to help support and facilitate the learning of these skills. In fact on relection and looking at all the outcomes there are in CfE, the school library more than just touches on Literacy, Numeracy, Health & Wellbeing, and Technology.

On from the Scottish Parliament the committee of the SLA(S) headed to a local eatery to have the AGM. It was fine to actually attend a meeting as, living on an island, due to travel costs, I don’t get to the committee meetings and am an ‘email member’. It is so satisfying to be able to have face-to-face conversation with colleagues in the same profession. Even with the meeting technically over we still ‘talked shop’ discussed books and generally shared ideas.

So, the ‘work’ part of the trip over, I then met up with a good friend and we walked the Royal Mile looking at the shops (dare I say it mostly tourist tat) before getting a bus out to the suburbs to pick up the car and her partner then heading to Stirling to be dropped off (partner heading to Glasgow) to get a bus ‘home’ to Crieff. The drive through central belt / low Highlands countryside was fabulous in terms of the autumn colour which I just don’t get to see in Orkney.

The next day dawned fairly bright and once breakfasted we headed for a walk in the woods - idyllic! The woody mossy smells, damp earth and grass and the bright autumn colour was fabulous and inspiring. Refreshing and invigorating. Later in the afternoon the journey back to Edinburgh airport meant that this little delightful sojourn was nearly over.

One Response to “A Bus(wo)mans’s Holiday OR The Importance of School Libraries”

  1.   cathyon 20 Jan 2013 at 6:35 pm

    I work in a new PPP school in Kilmarnock and our school librarian is the most knowledgeable person I have the pleasure to associate with. It’s a campus which includes primary and nursery children and she caters for all. She has a fantastic rapport with all ages. She is, as you say, a lonely figure in a vast space but not short of children around her any time you happen to pass. She caters for all subjects where projects have to be resourced. She’s an absolute film buff and runs a film club at lunchtimes every week, which then follows with taking the kids to see a film in a cinema in Glasgow.
    She’s an absolute star. As like many of us in local government, she has had a wage cut and a reduction in hours.
    Maybe they could pay off some of the ‘high heid yins’ and employ more stars worth their weight in gold.

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A Northern Journal
Mainland of Orkney