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What makes a Great School Library?

The relationship between reading attainment and reading for pleasure is dynamic and reciprocal, and school library staff can impact attainment by identifying barriers to reading, having specialist knowledge about which books suit which child, and supporting teachers in developing their reading environments.

Critical literacy is an essential skill in today’s world – the ability to evaluate information and entertainment sources is something no young person should be without, and the skills that allow them to do this also allow them to play an active role in society. Library staff have been specialists in this area for decades, teaching children how to find, evaluate and use information effectively and ethically – now there is a new air of urgency, and library staff have the knowledge and resources to empower pupils and support teachers in this vital area.

But great school libraries are also about space – a space that provides safety and comfort, a space that welcomes all pupils, and gives all equal access. A space that questions, and entices, and excites. A space where all children are free to travel on their learning journey and are supported and inspired by a knowledgeable specialist.

There are some libraries where these things aren’t happening, and this is a shame – both for those children who won’t get those experiences or knowledge, and for those teachers who lack support at a time when they need it. Part of this campaign will be about supporting staff (both library and teachers), and providing guidance on useful articles, places to start and where to go next, to ensure that all libraries are fulfilling their potential. However, it is important to note that in some schools Library Assistants have been employed on their own – we are not expecting them to take on the role of a Librarian/Library Manager. Nor are we expecting library staff who are under-supported or underpaid to start taking on more work. Through the campaign we will be raising expectations and understanding about the profession, and making decision makers aware of exactly what is missing when the school library languishes. This increase in understanding will lead to better access to CPD, salaries to match the role and a higher level of accountability, which will provide the best education for pupils, and support for staff.

Alison Tarrant, CE of SLA and Chair of Great School Libraries working party

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