Case study: Broxbourne school, Hertfordshire

2nd December 2005 at 00:00
When I was appointed in 1999, my brief was to revamp the library. I had a vision of what I wanted to achieve and was given the full support of the head - always a key factor. At that time there was a fiction library at one end of the school and a non-fiction section at the other, and my priority was to amalgamate them. I wanted to create somewhere that could accommodate whole-class teaching but also serve as a chill-out place where pupils could come as a sanctuary from the general hustle and bustle of the school.

Refurbishment has cost pound;70,000 and our new library resource centre has the space to seat more than 100 pupils.

It is important to make the environment welcoming. We have a fiction area with large beanbags and other comfortable chairs, a non-fiction section with study tables, and an ICT suite that has 34 workstations with internet access. We chose to have the computers in one block, as this makes it easier when a whole class is doing ICT work.

Promoting reading is an aspect of the job I feel especially passionate about. It's all about making reading cool, exciting and not such a solitary thing. We run a "Mad about Books" club for Years 7-11 and have a separate reading group for the sixth form. We also organise author visits, shadow the Carnegie medal process (a children's literary award) and host a heat of the nationwide Kids' Lit Quiz. The pupils look to me for advice about what to read and trust me to recommend something they'll like. They often seem to think I've read every book in the library.

The other important strand to my job is developing information literacy skills. It's something that you have to drip-feed throughout the whole curriculum. Most subjects regularly bring classes for specific projects which involve the pupils using a mix of printed resources and ICT, and I work with them to develop materials and deliver lessons. Modelling the use of the library is very important. The teachers show that they respect my expertise by letting the pupils see them asking for advice and when pupils ask me to find something I always make my search explicit. Even if I know I can put my hand on the resource immediately, I always take them through the process of finding it using the subject index and online catalogue, and physically running my finger along the shelves.

I'm lucky to have a full-time assistant working with me. Some schools try to save money by employing just one person to run the library, but they have to realise it's a false economy. Clerical assistance is vital if schools are to get their money's worth out of a qualified librarian. I couldn't do the amount of promotional work and team teaching that I do without assistance; I'd just be a highly- paid book-stamper if Linda wasn't there to manage the issue system for me. It also allows us to keep the library open from 8.15am right through to 4.10pm.

Lots of schools have pupils working behind the desk, but I prefer not to. I find that stamping the books is the thing that they most want to do, but it takes up a lot of time just supervising them, so I try to get them involved in other ways. I regularly consult with the school council about what to buy; I recently wanted to start a small CD library and I had no idea what the pupils would want to listen to, so they were able to give me recommendations. I'm also planning to take some pupils out to a bookshop to choose stock. We get involved in work-related learning too, with some pupils doing their work experience here.

We had an Ofsted inspection last year and the resource centre was identified as being one of the strengths of the school. As a result, we were visited as part of the good practice survey and myself and a colleague were asked to speak at the Ofsted conference on school libraries in October. We're proud of the centre we've developed here and it was great to be able to share our expertise.

Sue Shaper is a chartered librarian with a masters degree in education. She was talking to Caroline Roberts

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