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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?

HeleneCixous Fri 25-Apr-14 14:31:03

"better than a library" - there IS nothing better.

HEI libraries do have digital resources appropriate for their user community, and balance those needs with the need to use a great deal of print material which has NOT been digitised for copyright or market force reasons.

I should know, I run a library like that.

Fastcarsandsoftcats Thu 24-Apr-14 10:52:32

@MrsCakesPremonition .... not entirely true. I came on here specifically looking for information on Shiplake. I initiated a search, and this thread came up alongside many others; some even older.

I have looked around this school and was deeply impressed with it. The lack of library does rankle a little, but to be honest my sons' current prep doesn't have a formal library as such, it has an LRC which contains a range of learning material including books - but not that many. This has not prevented many children there achieving remarkable scholarships into some very, very good schools and it has not visibly precluded a love of reading by the pupils.

CouthyMow Mon 10-Feb-14 02:42:47

A school with no library is not one I would want to send my DC's to. Books, real, tangible BOOKS that you can hold and smell are important. No local library here either. And not everyone can afford ereaders.

MillyMollyMama Fri 07-Feb-14 18:04:06

I have just spent a lot of money on text books for my DD at University. She also lives in the library there and they ask parents to contribute A BOOK when the student leaves. Any decent University has a library and so does any decent school. The books my DD uses are not on e-readers!!! No wonder so many 6th formers lack research skills. Shame on Shiplake!

MrsCakesPremonition Fri 07-Feb-14 16:24:36

Unfortunately Shiplake College's response to this thread clearly demonstrates an inadequate understanding of the way social media and forums are used.

By posting 4 whole months after the original OP, Shiplake have simple resurrected an historic thread which would otherwise have died a quiet death.

We hope that many of you would strongly consider Shiplake when selecting the right school for your child - well I'm pretty certain that, on a forum which has 10 million visits a month, a vanishingly small number of users will have even heard of Shiplake (let alone to be actively considering sending their children there).

I remain to be convinced that a library is not an essential resource for a school.

TalkinPeace Fri 07-Feb-14 16:14:56

With an e-reader you can only look at one "book" at a time.

With real books you can lay them out on the table and compare and contrast the way they portray similar information.
Also books provide in a way that websites never, ever will, a snapshot in time of how a topic is portrayed.

I am deeply saddened that any school thinks that its pupils cannot cope with looking at multiple original sources simultaneously, or would not want to.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Thu 06-Feb-14 18:32:35

It is good to read such a full response.


The new building provided an opportunity to create something better than a library.

is certainly not a sentence I would ever have expected, or wanted, to hear in my lifetime.

ShiplakeCollege Thu 06-Feb-14 10:17:08

As far as our lack of a library is concerned, we hope to present a compelling case that all pupils’ needs are more than adequately met. Firstly, as a school we do unquestionably recognise and embrace the importance of reading. The College is certainly not a ‘book-free zone’, with every academic department possessing its own store of relevant texts. The English department is fully stocked with a wide range of reading books, available for pupils at all times. Furthermore, the College has invested in an e-library; a large collection of titles available to download for access on any device. Pupils are encouraged to engage in reading inside and outside of the classroom. The decision of whether to use books or an e-reader is left to the pupils who all have their own personal preferences. Indeed, there are often dedicated reading lessons and our Year 7 and Year 8 boys are currently taking part in a Readathon – the UK’s sponsored reading initiative for schools.

After gaining approval from governors that a library should be included as part of our new John Turner Building, we were faced with the task of devising a ‘library’ for contemporary times. Last year, we asked departments for a list of tomes which the proposed library should stock. After gauging the opinions of pupils as well, it became clear that many of the books we had decided to stock were available electronically, and not just in a readable format but in a system which allows annotations to be added and shared. It soon became clear that a traditional library was not the solution which would best serve pupils who would be entering further education and searching for employment in 2020 and beyond.

Thus we researched, questioned and collaborated with academic institutions and concluded that we needed an environment in which pupils could find information which they could not ordinarily obtain. Of course, teenagers can usually navigate their way around using Google and Wikipedia, but we would argue that teaching them how to access and use more sophisticated online resources to aid learning is becoming progressively more important than using a library. Whilst universities do still hold books, even Russell Group institutions are embracing the digital age. There is a clear movement towards online resources, with many prestigious journals, such as the British Medical Journal, now publicising a number of articles exclusively online.

The new building provided an opportunity to create something better than a library. The new study centre will contain a variety of learning resources, including tablets, a small number of laptops and books. Whilst it will not be labelled as a library, there will be several bookcases full of hardbacks and paperbacks for pupils to enjoy. A digital librarian (job title to be defined) with the required expertise will be employed to allow pupils to make the most out of the facility. They will be directed towards the most suitable resources to assist their learning. Furthermore, the above discussion correctly identified the need for a ‘place for quiet’ and a ‘place to think’ in a school. The study centre will contain several different areas designed for quiet independent thought and study, as well as sections for group work and collaboration. Complete with numerous exciting modern features, including a glass cube thinking space, the new centre will be a place of refuge for pupils, but most importantly a popular place which is visited eagerly at every opportunity. Creating an environment where the children really want to be will generate a widespread enthusiasm for literature and learning that a traditional library may not achieve.

There can be no doubt that we are in the midst of a digital revolution. Our job as staff is to ensure we use digital media as a tool to enhance our teaching: it will never replace it. When investing £4.2m in a new building, it was our responsibility to ensure that as well as meeting pupils’ needs today; we must also be able to meet the needs of pupils for decades to come.

Whilst not addressing any posts individually, we hope that all discussed topics have been covered. We continue to strive to improve the overall experience which pupils receive here at Shiplake College. If you have further queries, or wish to discuss any of the points further, please do not hesitate to get in touch (

Kind regards,
Shiplake College

ShiplakeCollege Thu 06-Feb-14 10:16:00

Please forgive the delay but we have only recently become aware of this thread. As Shiplake College features so heavily in this conversation, we believe it is appropriate to respond in order to establish the facts and allow you all to form accurate, balanced opinions about our school. We hope that many of you would strongly consider Shiplake when selecting the right school for your child, and it would be a shame if the above topics had an overly significant bearing on your decision-making process.

The first point to address is the confusion surrounding our use of whiteboards. To clarify, conventional whiteboards are fitted in the majority of classrooms, and are regularly used during teaching to display information and explain ideas. The decision taken was in fact to restrict the implementation of SMART/interactive whiteboards.

This decision was largely based on our Headmaster’s own experiences at school and as an ISI inspector. His conjecture, looking back at his schooldays, is that he gained much more from his teachers’ musings than from copying down endless notes from a board. These days, notes can be emailed or, better still, placed on a shared Google drive where pupils can comment, add or disagree, leading to further comment and discussion in class. We believe that the so-called ‘interactive’ boards, whilst undoubtedly sporting an impressive range of technical capabilities, actually consume the time and attention of teachers.

Having observed numerous lessons during ISI inspections, our Headmaster recalls that teachers would often create imaginative displays on their interactive board, but consequently spend approximately 75% of a lesson with their back to the class. Energy is used to configure the boards in order to maximise their effectiveness, which ironically reduces teachers’ interaction with pupils. A right-handed teacher may frequently glance over their shoulder at students sitting on the right-hand side of the room, but rarely turn completely to address those on the left. It was therefore no coincidence that pupils in the class most inclined towards misbehaving would migrate to the back-left desks at the start of each and every lesson.

At Shiplake, technology is embraced in other ways during lessons. Pupils are actively encouraged to bring their own ‘device’ (tablet or laptop) to the classroom. Projectors and more recently Apple TVs, synced directly to teachers’ laptops, have also been introduced. This allows information to be displayed without a requirement for the light in the room to be reduced. The teacher can face the class, or sit amongst them, and concentrate on what they do best; teaching. To be clear, the College is certainly not ‘against’ the use of traditional whiteboards, and even recently used some special paint to turn an entire classroom wall in to a giant whiteboard!

(Continued in 2nd message)

ebsln Fri 18-Oct-13 21:37:58

I hope you won't mind if I post a link to a new leaflet for parents and school governors to help them ask questions about school libraries. It has been produced by the School Libraries Group of CILIP.

Kiki63 Tue 08-Oct-13 18:56:32

Well Bisjo, that explains why there aren't too many bookcases in the architect's drawing... sad So sad, and so very short-sighted to think IT is the answer to all our needs. What a missed opportunity to design a fantastic all-encompassing 21st century library, like the brand new Birmingham Central, which funnily enough has one million books in it... hmm...

difficultpickle Tue 08-Oct-13 18:22:30

I had a lovely reply from the head and a call from the school secretary inviting me to meet and discuss my queries. Very impressed at the speed of response there. I won't meet at this stage until I know whether the school is on our shortlist. Out of five schools we've seen I'd place it third but we still have a number of other schools to visit including the one that ds is most keen on.

difficultpickle Tue 08-Oct-13 13:44:55

I've emailed the school to get a definitive answer.

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.

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).

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.

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?!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

it was rhetorical
it would be nigh on impossible long term

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.

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.

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

how do you teach without a whiteboard bisjo?

by mime?

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