'Zap' goes the library

20th April 2012 at 01:00
Barcode-reading software has enabled an Orkney primary to catalogue its children's fiction, finds Deedee Cuddihy

Like many primaries, St Andrews Primary in Toab on the Orkney mainland didn't have a proper library. Books were spread throughout the school and no one had a clear idea of what books they had, how many they had and where they were located.

So when they found themselves with a spare classroom, they consulted with the parents and decided to set up a fiction library, says headteacher Thelma Holt.

"By then, we'd heard about a computerised library system, designed especially for schools, that meant all our fiction books - more than 3,000, as we discovered - could be catalogued by `zapping' their barcodes with an electronic reader," she explains.

"Cataloguing each book by hand simply wouldn't have been an option, because of the time involved. But even zapping required parents coming in to help."

The system - Junior Librarian, from the UK company Micro Librarian Systems - is designed so that pupils can take an active part in running the library.

"The software set-up cost was just under pound;1,000," says Mrs Holt, "and we've opted for the hosted package, which means pupils can access library information from a home computer and parents can see what their children are reading.

"That costs approximately pound;500 a year, but our parent council is great at fundraising and we decided it was worth it, because of the added benefit to learning, particularly with Curriculum for Excellence and the emphasis on making choices and developing research skills."

No money had to be spent on the physical set-up of the new library because bookshelves, tables and chairs were brought in from within the school, and redecoration was not necessary.

Work on the library project started last June, and in February this year, the Happy Heron Library (the school's logo is a heron) opened for business, with all 180 children at the school coming in for library club at lunchtime and class sessions in the afternoon.

"The library has created a real `buzz' about books, more so because of the electronic element. And pupils are already more engaged with what they're reading, and sharing that with each other as well as their teachers and parents," says Mrs Holt.

"Getting to grips with the technology was a little daunting at first," she admits, "but we got through that with help from the company and the council's IT staff."

Last month, the new library was officially opened by Edinburgh-based children's author Lari Don, whose book, the award-winning First Aid for Fairies and Other Fabled Beasts was set in Orkney.

Micro Librarian Systems: www.microlib.co.uk.

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