Clare Hemsworth is a School Librarian in Renfrewshire, dividing her time between Renfrew High School and St Andrew’s Academy.
I was successful in acquiring my first professional post as a school librarian in August last year after working as a library assistant in an independent grammar school and as a children’s bookseller. I started work at the beginning of the academic year and am starting the process to become chartered. I currently work in two state schools, one of which is shared with another librarian.
Working in a school library can be quite an isolating experience, especially during school holidays when you are literally one of only a few people in a building designed for a thousand. There are sometimes days when I don’t physically see another adult until break time. However I have very supportive colleagues, both in the schools I work at and the other librarians who work for the council, so I know that if I need advice I have people who are able to help. The pupils also help you to feel less like you are working alone. Thanks to the kids that frequent the library in both schools during their free time, I now know a lot more about computer games and pop music and can also recite pi to 10 digits (they are better at it than me!) I would like to think that I have taught them a lot too in the short time that I have been there – they are better at researching, choosing texts that challenge them and organising information.
The variety of the job is something that I love about being a school librarian. One minute you can be fixing a paper jam in the printer, issuing overdue slips, talking to a pupil about the latest book in a series or compiling library usage statistics, and the next minute you could be arranging an author visit, helping teach a class on research skills or helping a pupil revise for a test they have that morning.
No two days are the same so this is what I got up to one Tuesday in February!
08.15 Arrive in work, check tray for any mail, check e-mails quickly and put the kettle on!
08.15-08.45 The library opens to pupils at 8.30am and is instantly very busy with returning / issuing and printing. I am able to use this time to chat to pupils about what they are reading, which led to a discussion about careers as they are busy picking their choices for next year – recommended they visit the careers adviser at her drop in session. An S2 pupil who previously stated that she hated reading is excited to let me know what is currently happening in a book that I recommended – made my day!
08.50-09.35 An S2 English class visits the library to borrow / return books. All S1 and S2 classes take part in Reading for Gold, a programme which encourages them to reflect on what they have just read by answering questions / creating puzzles / creating their own book covers. This period goes past very quickly due to number of recommendations needed / the sheer logistics of issuing and returning so many books in such a short time period.
09.35-10.30 Only a few senior pupils using the library: this is something that I am keen to improve – the library is used heavily by S1-3 but I rarely see the majority of S4-6 outside of scheduled classes. I use this period to tidy the shelves which have been left extremely messy.
10.30-10.45 Break. Very busy at break with mainly S1 and S2s. Lots of S2 pupils asking for help finding resources on iconic figures after an engaging English lesson. I have five S2 library helpers and three arrive to help at break. I ask one to continue creating a display promoting the online resource Britannica School while the others run the issue desk. I supervise issues to check content and help with queries about overdue books.
10.45-11.35 No pupils in the library this period so speak to English teacher about her lesson about iconic figures and what I can do to support this. Receive an e-mail with a list of people the class is looking at and start to create a topic box for them. Issued another box of books to History teacher who is currently working on the Romans. English teacher asks for examples of newspaper articles for close reading practice with National 5 candidates.
11.35-12.25 World Book Day tokens have arrived so spent the period organising into class sets ready for March. One of the Deputy Heads pops in for a quick hello and a catch up.
12.25-12.55 Only one senior pupil studying at a computer so am free to prepare for a research skills lesson taking place in the library next week.
13.30-14.00 Library open to pupils for free browsing and computers. I ask the library helpers to go round the library to find out answers for a “What I am Reading” display. Extremely busy with lots of kids in but everyone seems to be doing something constructive and only need to ask one pupil to go elsewhere for trying to eat (a hot dog!)
14.00- 14.50 S1 Reading for Bronze class. Another busy period with recommendations and identifying pupils who are moving up to the Silver level of the programme. Explained the difference between Bronze and Silver and handed out additional workbooks.
14.50- 15.40 Only a few S1 pupils returning and issuing books (their dedicated library period wasn’t until next week but they had run out of things to read!) Spoke to Head of Languages about subject choices for the next academic year and how the library can support this in terms of resources.
15.40- 16.15 Tidy up the library from the afternoon and check that I have the books I had borrowed for a specific pupil from the shared school ready to take back tomorrow. A book arrived that the Head-teacher was keen to read so I quickly catalogue it and put it in his tray.
16.15 Home time!
Thanks to Clare for being the first contributor to the blog and for taking us through a very varied school day. She is happy to answer questions by email or in person. In the first instance, please leave a comment below or tweet Clare on @ClareEH.