Being a librarian in a school involves far more than the usual and expected tasks of choosing, classifying, accessioning and issuing books.
On a typical day the library provides the boys with more than books, research results and information. We photocopy lost notes and forgotten return slips, laminate illustrations for projects, print and spiral-bind assignments. We are asked to store models for oral presentations in class such as ‘lungs’ made out of plastic bottles and balloons for biology assignments, and look after hockey sticks, cricket bats and even the odd set of golf clubs for the day. In addition, the library is the place to find a safety pin for a broken zip, a headache tablet or throat lozenge to soothe a sore throat before an oral presentation, a plaster or bandage for an injury on the sports field, and a needle and thread to sew a missing button onto a blazer!
In between these everyday requests we issue and return books and carry out the usual administrative tasks which need attending to in any library. It is, however, these out of the ordinary requests we deal with which enable us to really get to know and interact with the boys in the library. Understanding a boy and getting to know his interests is an essential entry point to advising him on selecting reading material for recreational or research purposes. Occasionally there are boys who have never read a book – they have made do with summaries, notes and extracts and they haven’t yet experienced the magic of reading. It is some of these boys who come into the library for medical or other assistance and through this contact later become regular readers and visitors to the library.
The library is busy with class visits for both reading and research during the school day and becomes a hive of activity during lunch break when the computers are always booked for use, the photocopy machine works overtime and the queue at the issue desk extends well into the library. Although there is a healthy ‘buzz’ of noise during breaks we have adopted a zero tolerance to noise in the afternoons. A number of boys stay behind after school to do their homework or research topics in the library and we have succeeded in keeping the library a quiet place conducive to work and study in the afternoons.
In spite of the ever rising costs of books we have been fortunate that our library budget has once again enabled us to buy the latest best sellers and to keep our regular readers happy. We endeavour to buy as many of the requested books as possible and we continue to have a good mix of popular reading material and prize-winning novels to cater for the serious and the recreational readers. Some of our best books have been purchased with vouchers which have been won by our school’s debating team.
Without the help of our library monitors, I would not be able to meet the needs of library users and I am very grateful to them for the hours they put into the job of keeping the shelves tidy, putting away books, assisting with photocopying and tidying the library after breaks. Their assistance is invaluable and often goes unnoticed. We need them to keep our library the busy centre that it is. I still believe that it is indeed the heart of the school!