Lucy Chambers, MCLIP, Primary School Librarian for Tower Hamlets Schools Library Service, London
I run three primary school libraries, one for two days a week and the other two for one day a week each, term time only. I also work half a day a week in the Schools Library Service. Around half of Tower Hamlets’ primary schools have a professional librarian from the Schools Library Service for half a day to five days a week and four schools employ their own. We also offer the service to primary schools in neighbouring boroughs. Appealing factors of being a primary school librarian are the variety of the work, being a vital part of the process of introducing and promoting reading for pleasure and information to children and staff, being part of the team in schools but with some autonomy, and also being part of the SLS team across Tower Hamlets.
A typical day at Globe Primary School
- Globe Primary School is a state school in a deprived area of London. From 2013 Ofsted report: ‘A very high proportion of pupils speak English as an additional language, some of whom are at the early stages of learning English. The majority of pupils are of Bangladeshi heritage, with those of African and White British heritage making up the next largest groups.
An above-average proportion of pupils are known to be eligible for the pupil premium, which provides additional funding for children in the care of the local authority, pupils known to be eligible for free school meals and pupils with a parent or carer in the armed services. ‘
8.45 Arrive at school; quick meetings with teachers to discuss plans, requests etc. I suggest activities and competitions, eg the SLS Reading Year events: Book Award (culminates in November: My club of keen readers wrote and performed a play at the finale), the KS2 Poetry Slam run with the Poetry Society (poet in school for 3 days, group of Year 5s performed their own raps at the finale) and Creative Writing Competition (judged by a well-known author). I work closely with teachers on events like this. We also regularly shadow national book awards. We have recently become a Magic Breakfast Club (free breakfasts for children). I successfully applied for a grant to turn this into a Magic Breakfast Book Club and was also awarded a grant to buy magazine subscriptions for every class. I choose and order curriculum topic books for classes each term as well as keeping up to date with library stock. Globe Library has 7000 + books, bigger than my other two libraries. During a phase when the school was being rebuilt and I had no library, I catalogued and reorganised all the teacher resources, useful to staff to be able to trace materials all over the school for topics. I encourage staff to borrow from the SLS (they can borrow 70 items a term) and will often sort out their loans for them. I supplement library stock with SLS loans eg if we put on a reading event for families or for my Research Club (books, posters, artefacts, costumes etc.)
9.15 – 11.00: Read stories to Nursery and help children choose books; get in a bit of information skills instruction, as curriculum too tightly packed to allow regular formal lessons; work with Language Provision class (a small group of children with particular needs. Exciting to see their progress in reading and curiosity over the term.) All classes have a weekly timetabled slot in library of about 30 minutes, not necessarily on the days I am in.
11 – 12.50: Some of the following: planning clubs, planning a library assembly, writing newsletters, organising competitions, initiating author visits, ordering and processing books, shelving, emailing Head or teachers, planning trips, displays in library and around school, weeding and restocking class libraries, parents’ book club sessions…etc. I try and keep up with what is happening in school and ensure library involvement where possible. Check the online calendar for forthcoming events, eg Art Day, Book Month, Aspirations Day (career displays with stalls run by parents and visitors. I run a Librarians stall using posters and postcards from CILIP and SLG, and also provide books about jobs and careers in general. Other stalls last year included a baker, a pilot, doctors, nurses, dentists, professional photographers, a Shiatsu expert, an author, the Army…)
12.50 – 1.20: Reluctant readers visit library to tell me about books they are reading and earn stickers. The more stickers earned collectively by the end of term, the better the prize! (Last time we ran this club the prize was a trip on a Saturday to a football match for 30 families. Great fun). KS2 children drop in to library to change books. Some visit daily and read avidly. Junior Librarians come too (favourite jobs: fishing (retrieving books from behind the shelves), stamping and labelling new books, wrapping books for the Lucky Dip (for the indecisive child: Rule: whatever they unwrap they have to borrow. Some children love the random nature of this process and have really expanded the range of what they read.)
1.30 – 2.00: lunch break
2.15 – 3.00: Year 2 and Year 6 classes visit the library to change books. I talk to as many children as I can about their choices and help them use the wall subject index. Most popular sections are Fiction, Transport, Dinosaurs, Animals, Weather, Horrible Histories, Fairytales, Cartoons, Puzzle books, Jokes and Guinness World Records and similar books. I also stock comics and magazines to be read in the library. These are very well used. When their shelf life is over I use them to wrap the Lucky Dip books (extra reading material.) The Art section is also popular, as all classes used to be named after artists. Children are expected to complete home research projects with their families, so children will request their current topic books, a great opportunity for me to get some information skills teaching in. Families are encouraged to attend a homework club weekly and use books in the library and the school computers for research.
3.10 – 3.25: Parents and young children drop-in session to share books. Lend books to parents on request and also promote Idea Stores to them. Have to ask them to leave promptly as…
3.30 – 4.30: Library club: eg Book Award; Chatterbooks Star Reviewers; Research Club; Magazine Club; Reading Club etc; In one of my other schools my clubs target particular groups of children, by request of the Head. I run different clubs for different age groups every term in each school at lunchtime and after school.
4.30 – 5.30: More planning, consolidating etc, meetings, emails. All this interspersed with monthly SLS Librarians’ meetings, CPD courses and trips: I try and organise regular trips for my clubs: a museum, art gallery, book shop or Idea Store. Home by 7pm.