2/2. Cat – SLO Librarian

Last week’s post was by a School Librarian. To complement that, this week’s is from a SLO Librarian – that’s SLO as in School Library Outreach! Cat McGlinn works for Glasgow Life.

The School Library Outreach service is located in the famous Mitchell Library, one of the largest reference libraries in Europe which, since 2005, also has a substantial lending service. Along with reference and lending services and free PC/Wi-Fi use it also houses the Glasgow City Archives and collections which are considered to be some of the best in the world. As of 2011, it has also housed the School Library Outreach Service.

Mitchell Library. Image credit: Andeggs, via Wikimedia. Public domain.

Mitchell Library. Image credit: Andeggs, via Wikimedia. Public domain.

I have been a school librarian in Glasgow for the past 6 years and in December 2010 the School Library Service was moved from Education under Glasgow City Council over to Glasgow Life which is an extended arm’s-length organisation of the council. Glasgow Life is responsible for all Glasgow Libraries and this move brought all library services in the city together.

Before this move took place, SLO was known as the Education Resource Service and it was a completely separate entity from the school library service. It was housed in the same building as the Glasgow Gaelic School in the West End of Glasgow and was run by a dedicated team of librarians. It was a walk in service which supported primary and nursery schools all over Glasgow through the provision of topic boxes and story sacks supporting the Curriculum. The teachers were able to come to the ERS themselves, decide what they wanted and take the materials away with them.  After the school library services were incorporated into Glasgow Life it was decided to move the Education Resource Service to the Mitchell. It was moved lock, stock and topic box to the 6th Floor, rebranded the School Library Outreach service and staffed by school librarians as well as some of the original staff from ERS.

The service is now delivered all over the city using the van service from the Mitchell as the public are not allowed access to the 6th Floor and all the Topic Box requests are sent/received through the SLO inbox. It was a very different experience when I first started working there.

I started working in the Education Resource Service (as it was known then in the Gaelic School) in January of 2011. I had been moved from my full-time school librarian post into a 2 day school post and 3 days in the ERS. I had never worked there before and it was a total baptism of fire. There were queues of teachers and school janitors (who had been sent with lists by teachers) all waiting to be seen by a member of ERS staff. To top it all, the parking outside was limited and ticketed which made for much checking of watches and gnashing of teeth. Our task, as ERS staff, was to gather all the paper requests, issue the resources and get them to the staff member before their parking ticket ran out. It was like a timed challenge! Not the easiest thing to do in a small space. It was a complete change from solo working in a school 5 days a week. I’m sure other school librarians will agree that sometimes it can be a lonely job. Being asked to work at the ERS 3 days a week gave me a chance be part of a team working together to provide a service, and also to talk to other school librarians and share some Best Practice ideas.

Monkeying around

Monkeying around

The ERS moved at the end of January 2011 into the Mitchell Library and the service provision completely changed. Gone are the days of teachers turning up waving bits of paper and asking for topic boxes. Now the requests are all electronic and the resources are held in a huge store-room lovingly renamed “The Topic Box Room”. At peak borrowing times, hundreds of topic boxes and story sacks are issued. It can be slightly repetitive but we find ways of breaking up the monotony…

I am also involved in stock development, cataloguing and reader development. It is also part of our job to make up new topic boxes and refresh topic areas to reflect the changes in the new Curriculum for Excellence. It is still staffed by school librarians throughout the week. I work four days in a school now and in SLO every Friday.

The thing about working in SLO is that you can be asked to do anything. As well as the everyday tasks of providing a service to primaries and nurseries, we also work on projects for secondary schools and help out at activities taking place within the Mitchell. I have taken part in The Wee Write! which is the only dedicated Book Festival for young people and families in Scotland. This can involve anything up to and including looking after authors and taking groups of wide-eyed, super-excited kids through the Mitchell Library. I remember vividly being asked by an overawed 5-year-old “Do you live here?” as I took them up to the famous Burns Room for an author session.

I’m not just confined to the Mitchell either when working at SLO. In the past I have been sent to different branch libraries to run activities as part of the Tesco Bank Summer Reading Challenge Scotland and to primary schools to tell them about author visits as part of the Scottish Book Trust Live Lit programme. Last year I supported another school librarian as part of the National Young Readers Programme. This programme is designed to motivate disadvantaged children to read for pleasure. Activities included reading stories to the class, organising an activity in a branch library complete with crisps, cake and Horrible Histories bingo and then a huge party at the Mitchell Library. At each activity the children were allowed to choose a book to take home and keep. It was a really fantastic project which was enjoyed by all. This summer I also helped to support the Commonwealth Games activities throughout the city.

My job at SLO can be very varied and gives me the chance to work in a world-famous library and experience many different aspects of being a librarian. It can be described as many things but certainly not SLO…

Thanks Cat! This brought back memories for me of my time at Jordanhill where we stocked story sacks for student teachers to use on placement. It was not unknown to come round a corner and encounter a member of staff dressed as a pirate or some other storybook character….

Please leave questions and comments for Cat in the comment box below, or find her on Twitter @librarycat10.


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