Day in the Life of Schools Library Service

8.30am:     It’s the last day of our project boxes being delivered to schools around the county, with teachers eager to start their chosen topics of study for the term. The van driver loads the vehicle and sets off towards Redditch – one of our furthest drops. Before he’s even out of earshot, the phone rings and a teacher cheerfully tells us she’s changed her mind about what to cover and please could she have Stone Age instead of Maya Civilisation.  Oh – and is she too late to have them delivered to Redditch? A quick scan of the mobile rota shows that the mobile library will be visiting a school there at the end of next week. If she would like the box earlier we could send it to the public library and she could go there to collect it. She opts for convenience and we promise to deliver it in a week’s time.

Throughout the morning the phone rings a few more times with project queries. An efficient school secretary cross checking the boxes against the list she’d sent in can’t find 4 boxes on science fiction, space and time travel  ordered for 2 reception classes. After telling her that we were very short on this subject for that age group, I check the school record and find that we had indeed put up 4 boxes. So where are they? I suggest our admin assistant rings the driver to ask if he can remember. He swears he dropped off the correct number, but if there is a problem the neighbouring school had an awful lot of boxes, so perhaps they are there?  Luckily, before she rings them to ask, the school secretary rings back to say an over enthusiastic teacher had whipped the boxes away almost as soon as they arrive for the children to look at them, so their order is correct. Another teacher rings in to say her box had a lot of fiction included when she had wanted non- fiction. We do tend to include fiction as it’s a great way to introduce a topic to a class. What was her project on? Dragons. I can feel my brain whirring as I work out how to tell the teacher that dragons are not real. I offer to look for more myths and that seems to placate her.

So the bulk of projects gone until we collect them back in at the end of March, we survey the state of the workroom.   There’s quite a bit of shelving to do. Ok, a lot of shelving to do. Well, absolutely loads. It can’t all be done at once otherwise the staff will lose the will to live. One of the team offers to sort out Christmas. These books having been returned, now need to be sorted into picture books, nativity, craft, traditions and older fiction.  I volunteer to shelve the local history as this always gets left as the Dewey number is the same, but I just sort into town/village order.  I also feel able to respond to the email from the Health and Safety officer asking to do the annual H&S check of the building. That’s not to say the building wasn’t safe during project time, but I’d prefer not to have to walk around the building with him whilst skirting around 900 extra boxes.

11am:     Now that term has started and we can contact schools, we have a couple lined up requesting visits to revitalise their school libraries. I sort out dates for them and ask the appropriate staff to visit, briefing them on what they will need, what we did when we last went in and what their subscription entitles them to have. At this stage in the financial year, if a school wants more time than their subscription strictly allows we try to entice them by offering to do half now and half next term under the new financial year’s subscription. This preparation for the new financial year needs to start now as each school is sent details of either what they bought into and how cost effective it has been, or what they could have received if they had spent just a couple of £000 with us instead of buying a set of ipads they have had trouble with connecting to their wifi and so haven’t managed to make best use of. I also need to sort out the broken weblinks as the county ‘updated’ the whole webpage at the end of last year and now our links don’t link in spite of the address still being the same.

1pm:     One vital difference working in SLS to working in a school is that most days I do manage to eat at lunchtime.  So feeling refreshed, after lunch I plan to book the LMS user group room, ensure I have the schools using the system in my emails and draft the invitation to send. As well as that I have our local school librarian meetings to remind schools about and ask for agenda items, a course for next term to plan, the 2 book awards to contact schools about – how are they getting on with their reading? Both are at different stages because of the different time frames.  At least I have read all books for both, but then I did have a head start.

5pm:     I debate whether or not to take home my laptop which would enable me to do more work at home, but instead settle for a pile of reading – The School Librarian, TES, Raintree catalogue, forward the YLGnews email to my home email address and close the building.

It wasn’t a day when I engaged with the actual end user – children and young people, but we helped a lot of teachers and school librarians to do that. We do enable schools to get books into the hands of children and the occasions when I am with the young people are often enough to keep me happy. I love my job because of this variety and not being tied to a desk. Why are SLSs and school libraries not statutory?


Dawn Woods

Manager: SLS, Worcestershire

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