Thank God it's Friday
The small branch library where I work isn't open today, but I go anyway, to prepare for tomorrow's weekly class visit. An OFSTED inspector will probably tag along. Up goes the striking array of batik artwork; into immaculate order go all the books in the children's section. And I choose a story that will appeal to a grown-up from OFSTED as well as eight and nine-year-olds.
Tuesday: Because it's a special occasion, two of us are on duty. Privately, I'm praying for a freak thunderstorm and a streak of lightning with OFSTED's name on it. But through the window I see not only the sun shining in a clear blue sky, but children approaching, led by their teacher - and a very sprightly man in a suit. An inspector calls.
The story is a hit. Thank you Michael Rosen for "The Bakerloo Flea". My audience seems riveted: the children, stray members of the public, and the inspector. He acknowledges the batik display and then takes himself back to school, missing the bit when 30 children in a confined space simultaneously grapple with the Dewey Decimal Classification System finding information for their "personal research".
Wednesday: A busman's holiday in the school library where inspectors lurk in corners and leap unexpectedly out of the woodwork with their clipboards. I've been asked to help train some pupil librarians. I was one myself in the 1950s in a village library that wasn't made for children. A few shelves of books were secreted behind curtains for adults who wanted some fireside reading. When the county's mobile library came to swap books, pupils were enlisted to help. I always chose books with red covers.
Thursday: First through the door this morning is a harassed mum, wanting anything on the history of Weston-Super-Mare. It's for her daughter's school project. "It's due in the day after next." Hot on her heels comes another mum whose son is "doing" Norman castles. "I think I've put in more work than him." The day's full of queries from the public. ("Can I get a doggie scoop here?") Then a lad comes in for information on the Aztecs. I'm so impressed that he hasn't sent his Mum, I let him borrow everything we've got. I regret it when more children arrive wanting "anything on the Aztecs".
Friday: Today it's story time for under-fives. The children love it and today they "twinkle twinkle" home, each with a silver star. I hope they'll also take home a love of nursery rhymes, an increased vocabulary, the ability to sit quietly while listening to stories, and the habit of borrowing books. Today one of them takes "The Very Hungry Caterpillar". He borrowed it last week but can't bear to part with it. It used to be one of my favourites, too. Now I can't stomach anything to do with butterflies.
Liz Youngs is a governor in Somerset