Pupil Librarians: An Insider's View

By Kearney, James | School Librarian, Summer 2014 | Go to article overview

Pupil Librarians: An Insider's View


Kearney, James, School Librarian


You wander through the School Library at lunch. There are some Year 11 students in one corner quietly discussing the questions in a GCSE study guide, and at the other end of the room, Year 8s are battling it out to find the most extraordinary thing in the record books. At the issue desk, the librarian is advising a group of A-Level pupils on the best books to read for their upcoming EPQ and ... a team of Pupil Librarians are diligently working away on a new library project (without screaming, shouting or tearing the library apart!) Sounds idyllic, doesn't it? The perfect school library, some might say! But why can't it be the perfect library in each and every school library across the country? Well, it can!

I've been a Pupil Librarian in my school for almost five years, and I'm now in Year 12. I've progressed from a shy, timid Year 8 student in the library to becoming the Senior Pupil Librarian. And yet, I've got no formal library qualifications, I haven't been in the job for decades and I'm only helping out for five hours a week! But still, with just one librarian and a small team of Pupil Librarians, we somehow manage to pull off that 'idyllic' library, we think!

Our library has just been moved to a different part of the school and has been re-designed, presenting us with some fresh challenges--less book space, arguably some space restrictions, and yet despite having a few niggling problems, the result has been good, overall. For us, it's important now more than ever to pitch to the whole school how important and useful the library can be in learning. Oh, and persuading the staff to utilise the library is just as important!

So how do we do it? Well, we have an organised Pupil Librarian team. We usually interview prospective Pupil Librarians; see what ideas they have for the library and how they believe they could contribute to the life of the library. We have a proper job description and person specification for Pupil Librarians, and run a formal induction period, introducing various aspects of the library; how it is organised; how to deal with enquires; how to interact with users. It's vital for any new Pupil Librarian to be confident in the library and the way it works. And of course, the rest of the team are always on hand to help out and share advice--that's the meaning of 'team'!

You might be asking--how do we encourage the team? After all, your Pupil Librarians might not fancy shelving books all lunchtime, every lunchtime! Well, we share responsibilities between us all. Someone looks after the library shop, selling stationery at morning and lunchtimes, someone else acts as the link between the Warhammer Club and the library. My responsibility? I look after our Library Blog and jointly manage our displays. We'll have a team meeting and share our ideas--'How about an E-Resources display?' 'Why don't we try a quiz for World Book Day?' All these suggestions will (hopefully!) help us to achieve a school library which is firmly at the heart of learning within the school. That's an important aim for everyone--especially in an 'age' when the library budget might be on the school's funding chopping board.

Where does it go from there? This is where the experimenting and creativity comes into play! We'll try something out after a bit of planning maybe it is a total success, or maybe a complete disaster--not to worry, we've tried it and that's something. As H. Jackson Brown Jr. is reported to have said, 'You will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do.' Sound advice! Everything we try is part of that 'learning curve'--it gives us all more experience in our work and enables us to forge links with students.

What else do we try? Getting students who aren't Pupil Librarians to help in the library is something we've tried, and succeeded in. One day, we were putting up a new display in the library--a sort of collage of book covers, with some inspirational quotes dotted around here and there. …

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