Saturday 27 February 2021

Being a School Librarian - post contributed by Denise Lawrence

Being a School Librarian – What is it like? A presentation by Janet Syme MA MCLIP

by Librarian, Simon Balle All-through School

A Cambridge Library Group Zoom Event held on Wednesday 10th February 2021

I have only recently joined the Cambridge Library Group, so I was delighted to attend the recent Zoom presentation which Janet Syme recently gave to CLG members. Janet and I have been friends and fellow school Librarians for many years, and I have visited her Library on several occasions, so I was very much looking forward to her presentation.

Janet began by taking us through her career in Libraries, starting with her work as a SCONUL Trainee at the Bodleian Library Oxford, then on to UCL where she achieved her MA, after which she became a Rare Book Cataloguer at Founder’s Library at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge. From there, Janet became Assistant Librarian at the Department of Trade and Industry, being seconded to the Department of National Heritage (now DCMS). All of this varied experience of the world of Librarianship would have been excellent preparation for the challenges and changes of becoming a School Librarian at Simon Balle All-through School in Hertford, where Janet has been Librarian for the past 18 years.

Janet has seen and been involved in many changes over the years at Simon Balle. From a secondary school, Simon Balle developed into an all-through school, welcoming the first intake of 60 Reception pupils in September 2015. Previously the Library was extensively re-modelled in 2010, and the primary phase Larch Library was opened in the new primary building a few years ago. Janet was now in charge of two libraries in two different buildings on the same site. As more primary classes are welcomed each year, by September 2021 there will be two Libraries serving the needs of 420 primary pupils, 1150 secondary students from Reception to 6th Form and a staff of 200.

So what does this entail? As Librarian, Janet works 28 hours per week and is assisted by Mr Kevin Belsey when his duties as Cover Supervisor allow. She is supported by parent helpers, 10 Year 5 Larch Librarians in primary and a team of Student Librarians and Sixth Form Library Supervisors in the secondary Library. Janet runs Library sessions including storytime for Reception children and Library lessons for six Year 7 classes each week. The school uses the Accelerated Reader programme where students take online tests to determine their reading age and take an online quiz after finishing each book to assess their reading comprehension. The AR programme is designed to improve literacy and produces detailed statistical reports which please Ofsted! Janet also supports Sixth Formers undertaking the EPQ so must ensure that the Libraries support the curriculum and leisure reading needs of children from Reception to young adults in Sixth Form as well as staff.

With the English Department Janet facilitates the Lower School Book Club, the Carnegie Book Club and the school is also a testing centre for the Federation of Children’s Book Group’s annual Children’s Book Award. The Library hosts special events eg Staff Coffee and Cakes, Easter Book Reviewing, Quizzes and Speakers Corner. Janet also organizes the annual Book Festival with lots of visiting authors which is always a highly successful event in the school calendar.

Covid 19 and Lockdowns have presented many challenges to schools and Librarians. During the 1st and current 3rd Lockdown Janet worked from home, providing an e-Library using the Accessit library management system, e-Books and free resources, setting up a Click & Collect service when school returned. The new e-newsletter Off The Shelf is also proving very popular.

A very interesting event, well-presented, informative and enjoyable. Thank you, Janet!

Account by

Denise Lawrence MCLIP

Librarian Ridgeway Academy