Good news and bad news today. The bad news is that I am even more ill than I was yesterday. Family tension plus the usual cocktail of chronic conditions and medications resulted in a mental and physical breakdown last night and I have been suffering the aftermath of that all day. I am hoping that things will have settled down again by this evening and that I, and my family, can regain some equilibrium.
The better news is that I have been able to read some material about school libraries again. When I retired back in 2014, I sank into such a miserable state where I was unable to think about my beloved profession. Even visiting a public library was impossible for months. I carried on following my school librarian friends on Facebook, but I left Twitter plus all other forums and only made the occasional comment on my friends’ FB posts when they talked about their careers or work. My family wanted me to write something about school librarianship whilst I still had something to offer the profession, but I found it impossible to do that.
Anyway, I have had a tab open on Safari for some weeks with a link to a publication by the National Literacy Trust and I actually downloaded it last night (well before the breakdown) and read it through. The report can be downloaded here. This is it below:
School libraries: A literature review on current provision and evidence of impact
This literature review aims to provide a comprehensive contemporary picture of school libraries in the UK. It focuses primarily on what is known about the extent of current school library provision. This is then followed by a review of the known impact of school libraries on pupils’ skills, motivation and enjoyment. The review then finishes with an outline of the elements that make a good school library.
It was very interesting to try to read something like this again after all this time. I am not sure what my friends and colleagues think of it, but I felt that something very similar could have been written ten years ago! Although much of the literature cited was new, it didn’t seem to say anything new. Perhaps because not much has moved on since 2014, apart from technological developments. Much of the work cited was also very familiar to me. In fact, there was a tiny unnamed link to me in there – nice to see that some of my influence lingers on after such a long period away from the book shelves! (I will only say that the tiny link to me is the Ofsted 2006 publication on school libraries, Good School Libraries: Making a Difference to Learning, which is mentioned several times).
Despite my slightly negative comments, I am sure that it will still be a useful addition to UK publications on school libraries, especially as it highlights the importance of good school librarians and the impact on students’ reading, motivation, research and study skills, and the library as a place of safety.
It appears that my friends and former colleagues are still battling very familiar issues, made even more difficult, I would imagine, by the swingeing cuts to school budgets and the huge pressure on school staff. It is very difficult to develop a comprehensive school library service when your teaching staff are leaving the profession in droves and are constrained by targets and paperwork. Collaborative working needs all parties to feel relaxed and confident enough to try new ideas. This is very difficult to achieve in a climate like the present and I salute all who are continuing to fly the flag for the impact of school libraries and librarians and who do their very best for their school communities.
My very best wishes to all school library staff and the teachers and other staff working with them,