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Secondary school with no library

(63 Posts)
difficultpickle Sun 06-Oct-13 10:27:49

Visited a secondary school yesterday and asked to see the library. The lovely sixth former showing us round didn't know where it was. I wondered if it was a language issue (he was Russian) even though his English was perfect. I asked a teacher who said that they didn't have a library but were building a 'learning resource centre' that would have computers and ipads but no books. He justified it by saying that these days university libraries are moving away from having books as everything is available on line.

I was rather hmm and shock at this. It is the fourth senior school we've visited and the first without a library. All the other schools had at least one library and some also had small libraries in the boarding houses. I'm not sure what to make of a school without a library. I appreciate that technology is important and I love my Kindle for fiction but I still prefer to read proper non-fiction books, actual real books rather than on line. Am I just old or do others think it is a bit odd?

difficultpickle Sun 06-Oct-13 18:01:23

It is a longstanding criticism in the GSG so I don't think that they have just got rid of the library in order to house the new LRC. The LRC is being built on the site of the art dept, which is now housed temporarily in portakabins.

I left school 30 years ago and I appreciate times have changed. I wish I had had the opportunity to ask the head why they have library but I only discovered its absence towards the end of our visit. I liked the school and if it were to be a strong contender then I'd be contacting the head to ask. He seemed pretty dynamic and techno-savvy but I don't think that should be at the expense of more traditional learning methods.

The teacher I spoke to said that these days children only used libraries to study and the school had plenty of other places to do that. I felt that he completely missed the point.

difficultpickle Sun 06-Oct-13 18:10:59

The head has also got rid of all the whiteboards as he said that teachers spent too much time facing the boards with their back to their pupils.

Londonlady48 Sun 06-Oct-13 21:30:06

Local comp that my DD attends has an "information centre", no libarary. Seems quite common these days as so much is on line now and traditional books do seem to be dying a death. Results at the school are o.k but does seem a bit of a shame. I guess that is the way things are going however. None of their work involves text books/normal books apart from English GCSE so presume the school does not think it is a worth while use of space.

titchy Sun 06-Oct-13 21:40:07

Am gobsmacked there are schools without libraries and books - how do they encourage kids to read if they don't have a ready supply of books to loan out?shock

Cynderella Sun 06-Oct-13 21:54:09

I wouldn't reject a school because it doesn't have a library. Our school library (naturally it's now the LRC) has books and is well used but mostly by children seeking somewhere warm and comfortable, or by those who borrow and buy books elsewhere.

I wouldn't say it doesn't make a difference and I actually make children borrow books but there are more important things to consider. These things go round in circles. The school my own children attended got rid of its library in the 90s and turned it into a glorified computer suite. Now the computers have gone, iPads are in and there's ... a library with books, magazines and newspapers.

The children who really benefit from a school library (those who don't use public library and don't have books at home) are often the last to use the one at school unless teachers make a point of encouraging reading. And sadly, it's often not possible to use the library in that way because classes use it for the computers, or teachers don't see the value.

ThreeTomatoes Sun 06-Oct-13 22:06:49

Well, I'm glad to say that the schools we visited (at least two of them anyway) seemed really proud of their libraries (sorry, LRCs wink) and their collections of books. One of them occasionally has famous authors come in to speak to the children, and the librarian even said that if the kids wanted a book they couldn't find they would order it for them!

dd's primary school are majorly pushing the reading at home thing, and do 'book change' every week at school (as well as encouraging them to read), they have to fill in their reading records every time they read (every day preferably). This would be a PITA if dd wasn't into reading anyway, but she's a big bookworm, has a big bookcase of her own at home. She also swaps books with her friends from time to time. I just can't imagine her moving onto a secondary that doesn't have a library full of books or that doesn't encourage them to read like this!

difficultpickle Sun 06-Oct-13 22:10:12

I can't imagine a school with no library and no textbooks. What happens to those children who don't have access to a computer at home?

bcb567 Sun 06-Oct-13 22:20:56

I am a school librarian and every day I see the difference the library makes to the students at my school. There have been so many issues raised with this thread that it's almost impossible to address them all! If you want to know the difference a school library with a qualified librarian makes then have a look at the research carried out by the National Literacy Trust; a school library is THE most important factor in raising attainment, above social background, above class sizes, above teaching standards. So yes, a library DOES make a difference.

A school library is more than a roomful of books: we support children in their reading for pleasure (of both fiction and information titles); we support all curriculum areas providing material at all levels and abilities enabling the less-able students to access material suitable for their needs whilst the more-able students can find resources to challenge them; we provide a safe environment for children where they can explore their interests without criticism or comment. We teach information skills so that students can become independent learners.

Everything is not available online or as an ebook, and even if it was ... who would help the child to choose a book amongst the 70,000 teenage/young adult titles published each year? Who would ensure that the website the child was accessing was relevant, accurate and up-to-date. Librarians evaluate their stock which is purchased in consultation with teaching staff. The current Ofsted Guidelines focus on reading for pleasure and reading across the curriculum - and I would question any school that does not have a library and ask how they can hope to fulfil these requirements without one. The school librarian is the expert regarding this, we are the people who know about children's books, reading and information skills - not the teachers - their job is to teach, and even English teachers are rarely au fait with contemporary children's/teenager's literature.

All year 7 and year 8 students have lessons in my library where we discuss and talk about books, where they have a chance to browse the shelves and read. For many of these children, that is the only access they have to books (and magazines and newspapers). I have relatively few computers so it is not used as an IT room and, regardless of whether the teachers see the value of reading or not (and if they don't then they shouldn't be in the profession because you have to have literacy skills to succeed in any subject, and encouraging reading/improving literacy should be the remit of EVERY teacher), I see the value of reading .... and I make sure that my students get that message!

titchy Sun 06-Oct-13 22:33:57

Applauds bcb.

cory Sun 06-Oct-13 22:49:28

"He justified it by saying that these days university libraries are moving away from having books as everything is available on line."

Has he ever been to Oxford? Cambridge? Or any RG university? Floors and floors stacked full of lovely books. <drools slightly at the thought of Cambridge University library> Any student who is not comfortable among books is going to be massively disadvantaged.

mummytime Mon 07-Oct-13 04:45:28

Well I'm also puzzled by removing Whiteboards to stop teachers having their backs to children. How do teachers display work to the whole class? Blackboards are just as bad.
I have seen teachers use interactive whiteboards from the back of the class (you only need a cheap wireless mouse), and interactive white boards are often used by pupils.

I almost want to go on a school tour just to see how they teach there.

difficultpickle Mon 07-Oct-13 08:46:48

I thought the whiteboard thing was odd. At ds's previous school the teacher had a computer on her desk and used that to put info on the whiteboard which means she was facing the class most of the time. I am tempted to email the head if the school makes it on to my short list.

RainierWolfcastle Mon 07-Oct-13 08:47:50

my kids school was BUILT without one, they soon put one in

RainierWolfcastle Mon 07-Oct-13 08:48:24

how do you teach without a whiteboard bisjo?

by mime?

MaddAddam Mon 07-Oct-13 09:45:30

I wouldn't be happy. Whether it's called a library or a learning resource centre (urgh). My 13 and 12 yos and their friends spend a lot of their school spare time in the library and it's been an excellent place for them. The librarians have been helping them a lot with choosing good books to read. They act as student librarians and go to book clubs.

I work in a university and we certainly have a big library with lots of books in.

difficultpickle Mon 07-Oct-13 10:04:35

Rainier not sure I understand your question. I'm not a teacher so do not use a whiteboard. When I was at school they had blackboards and chalk, which seemed to be sufficient. I'm not for or against whiteboards but I di expect ds to attend a school that has a library.

RainierWolfcastle Mon 07-Oct-13 18:30:42

it was rhetorical
it would be nigh on impossible long term

ebsln Mon 07-Oct-13 20:15:23

I am so glad to see the universal support for school libraries expressed here (whether you call them learning resource centres or libraries, they are essentially places with books of all kinds with additional means of gathering information). I too am a school librarian, in a school which has recently made a big commitment to having both a brand-new library and professional librarians to staff it. We are all the invaluable things mentioned above. Last October we lobbied the House of Commons to ask for all schools to have libraries, professionally staffed. Many MPs were surprised this was not the case, but sadly it is far from true. A surprising number of recent schools have been built without libraries, and a number of school librarians have been made redundant. We are currently awaiting a report on how headteachers rate libraries. I hope it will be okay for me to let Mumsnet know the results when they do come out. I believe that all schools (at least secondary ones) should have a professionally staffed library, and that all primary schools should have access to such expertise. (In Tower Hamlets they have a wonderful scheme where primary schools can buy into a team of librarians. It would be great if this could be replicated everywhere.) Students' learning and reading for pleasure would be significantly improved with these facilities in every school. I feel both sad and angry for those children who do not have access to them.

Meandacat Tue 08-Oct-13 09:04:06

I would LOVE to see these universities without books that the head mentions. Yes, there may be a few faculty libraries - particularly sciences that require the latest research and information - that depend heavily on digital resources and have few books. But otherwise he is, quite frankly, talking out his posterior.

And in terms of "everying being online" - I would have asked him if his school is therefore paying for lots of subscriptions to e-content if they are preferring this route to physical books. Cos yes, you get a lot on-line these days. But it isn't all free.

Okilmartin Tue 08-Oct-13 09:46:04

I read somewhere that universities can tell which students have had experience of a library at school and the ones that do have a distinct advantage. It is very short-sighted of schools to think they're being cutting edge in not having books, as my experience of university (I went back to uni in my fifties!) was being given a long reading list of books and told to go to the library and find them. Libraries are much less daunting if you already understand how they are organised and can find your way round them. I too am a school librarian and we teach children the basics of the Dewey decimal classification system and how to use the catalogue. These basic skills stand you in good stead when moving on to further or higher education. Of course being able to find information online is important too, but again having a qualified librarian at school who has provided links to the best online resources and given guidance in effective internet searching will make a huge difference.

Kiki63 Tue 08-Oct-13 10:04:30

It's a nonsense to say everything is available online. British Library has been digitising its resources for over 20 years and they estimate that so far they've done less than 1% of their collection. To get rid of a library is to throw the baby out with the bathwater; children need access to print and online resources - books are not dying out even in this high tech age! I'm a librarian in a £28,000 p.a. boarding school and we have a non-fiction and fiction library (2 large rooms), online subscriptions, computers, laptops, DVDs, magazines and books. I doubt you'd find Eton, Harrow, Sherborne etc. replacing their libraries with iPads, but using all types of resources and means of accessing information, absolutely.

Kiki63 Tue 08-Oct-13 10:46:35

Had to investigate the vilified school further... there will be a library in the new John Turner building, but you have to wonder how current students manage without one. And the teacher who seemed to imply they didn't have one because they no longer needed one - does he realise they're building a new one?!

Murdermysteryreader Tue 08-Oct-13 13:25:57

This would be a real deal breaker for me. How do they encourage wide reading? How can pupils be encouraged to try different books and experiment. Or maybe thy presume if you can afford 30k a year for fees you will Also be willing to buy endless books. This would be a real deal breaker.

difficultpickle Tue 08-Oct-13 13:27:39

Kiki no there won't - it is a LRC without books. The person who told me was very senior at the school (director of his subject).

difficultpickle Tue 08-Oct-13 13:29:54

Just had a look at the link and I can see your confusion as it does say 'library'. However I trust what the subject director said more than what an architect has written on the plans.

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