For whom is a school library designed? Who feels the most at home, who has the most access, who gets the best service on a daily basis from the library? If students are not the first response, we should be worried. Of course there are other members of the community who deserve for their voices to be heard and their needs met: teachers, school leaders, parents, visitors. However, it is surely for student needs that all services at the school library must, eventually, exist.
At the Arthur Holt Library, we pride ourselves on having the student learning experience at the very centre of all our decisions, our interactions and our goals. Our collection, our staff, our projects and our events are all geared towards a better experience for students than previous years and in other situations. If they can get the same experience sitting on a bench with their laptop, we aren’t doing our job.
On a daily basis, we try to engage students in conversations regarding their work and their research, whether in formal class settings or informal chats during breaks or study lessons. We have had quite a bit of success in our recent trial of new and improved Introduction to Research lessons with Year 7, 8 and 9. Our team presented the basics of why we conduct research, a few strategies by which to “drive Google” more effectively, and other tips and tricks of using more than a basic internet search. We even mentioned books!
Week by week we highlight new issues with various displays and signage to stimulate thinking and conversations. Last week was “Library Lovers’ Day” on Valentine’s Day, so we brought some “blind dates” on to our displays and several staff and students took the opportunity to explore new fiction experiences. Even the Head Master took a chance on some young adult fiction (but you’ll have to ask him for the review!)
Our long term plans include discovering the best ways to support whole-school initiatives and programs, bringing energy and enthusiasm to priorities that cover more than one subject area. We engage with our colleagues here in the Senior School but also the Junior and Prep Schools, we discuss ideas with associates at other libraries and schools, we conduct research into best practice and innovative strategies. In a globally connected world, it makes sense to grasp the wonderful advice and opportunities that exist all around us.
But underneath all of this is our passion for supporting learning. Students will learn without school libraries but school libraries cannot exist without students. We need to demonstrate our relevance, passion and inclusion on a daily basis, so that our most important clients know we are here for them.