A school library without a librarian…is a room

As a teacher librarian, this quote resonated strongly with me when I saw it on Twitter. It comes from the article “Why We Need School Libraries” by Alan Gibbons an English author of children’s books and an educational consultant.  Alan is a passionate advocate for reading and the vital role of libraries and teacher librarians. 

I am incredibly fortunate to work in a brand new school library that was built with the BER funding. We moved from a 28 year old, tired, double portable classroom into a large, bright, open and modern space. Even though the two library spaces are in total contrast physically, their essence is the same. Both libraries have been much more than a room; they have both maintained a strong relationship with students, staff and parents and each library has encouraged, nurtured and valued a culture of reading at our school. The vital link between the two libraries is that there has always been a teacher librarian.

My principal values reading highly and as a result our primary school has a library and even rarer, a full-time teacher librarian. However, in the current climate I often find myself wondering what would become of our library if in the near future we have a principal who decides the school doesn’t need a teacher librarian. Instead, the classroom teacher takes the class to the library for borrowing once a week. Will our library still be a vibrant and welcoming space that is a celebration of books and reading and a place of creativity, inquiry and learning or simply a room full of books? Will the culture of reading we have developed be maintained? What impact would this have on learning at our school?

If there is no longer a teacher librarian who will…

  • Greet students with a smile and welcome them by name as they enter the library
  • Create a warm, vibrant and welcoming space that is open to all and a haven for many
  • Provide spaces where reading can be shared and social or done alone snuggled in a bean bag
  •  Purchase books that will inspire; fuel imaginations; enable walking in others’ shoes; foster an understanding of self; and move readers to laugh, cry and ponder
  • Expose students to a variety of illustrators and explore the power of visual images
  • Read and skilfully bring books to life with genuine love, appreciation and knowledge
  • Enthusiastically talk about and recommend books 
  • Make reading fun and positive
  • Take time to match students to the ‘right book’ to meet their needs and interests 
  • Organise books to make them appealing and easy to browse and access
  • Design activities where literature can be explored, discussed and brought to life in various ways
  • Encourage and celebrate reading with Book Fairs, Book Week, Author visits, Premiers Reading Challenge and other fun reading events
  • Teach students skills needed to access, use and present information ethically
  • Plan with teachers and provide resources for classroom reading and inquiry
  • Believe in and promote the power of reading for enjoyment and learning

“It is not enough to have a school library, however clean and airy and stuffed with books, e-readers, computers and tablets. A library without a librarian …is a room” Alan Gibbons