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May 22, 2009

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I clearly remember the library at middle school - it was run by a woman whose nose twitched when she spoke to you - like Samantha in Bewitched.

We couldn't read what we wanted - we had to read one horse book, one thriller type book, one sci-fi book etc. I hated sci-fi and wasn't interested in horses, and I really disliked being told what to read so I've always been very liberal about what my son reads. I can see that the teachers were trying to get us to read books we wouldn't otherwise choose but I feel you should find out without being pushed. We were not allowed to read Enid Blyton either. I do remember discovering Tom's Midnight Garden and Carrie's War and devouring the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I also remember watching a BBC play adapted from Crime and Punishment, (it starred John Hurt and Timothy West) and reading the book afterwards. I was 11 and it opened up a whole new world of reading. But my main memory of the school library was being controlled.

Sounds a bit grim Jane. The fun bit is a free choice. When I was teaching we did do a library challenge which meant kids had to read a book from different genres, but they could have other books as well! I always made time for free reading.

I am feeding our five year old some Enid Blyton at the moment. For all her faults you can't beat her work for engaging kids' attention.

This is so depressing. So far, our school libraries here aren't losing books, just librarians. So the sad fact is that they will cease to be updated and will probably eventually be dismantled for being out-of-date. This is one reason that I have made a big effort to build my son's home library.

The school I went to thought reading encouraged subversive behaviour and libraries bred leftist commie extremists so we didn't have one. Happily the local "librarian" - who neither knew nor cared about books that I could see - didn't seem to mind that I spent all my spare time in there.

My sons went to a primary school so tiny that it only ran to a library shelf, but they were both encouraged to bring in books from home for free reading; they both seem to have developed an affection for the Stainless Steel Rat books which I think they must have found in the libraries at their secondary schools. I don't expect to have any grandchildren (which is a shame because I loved reading aloud to my kids) but if I did, I wouldn't be making any assumptions about school libraries actually containing any books.

I have to confess that I made little use of my secondary school's large library, partly because the stock was incredibly aged and a foible of mine is that I've never liked old-looking books - even classics have to be read in new-looking editions (maybe I'll blog about this at some point) but the other reason was our little local library in the town nearest the farm where I grew up. The children's section was small - one Ikea Billy-type bookcase but I read everything in it and then progressed, aged about 11 to the books my parents were reading. As we weren't by any stretch of the imagination well off, without the library my access to books would have been limited to the one every two or three months that my pocket money would have allowed me.
But I do have a slightly happier contribution than most on the school libraries front - the boys' grammar school where I work has an excellent library, well stocked with fiction from Anthony Horowitz to Anthony Trollope. All English timetables for the lower school still have library periods once a fortnight and all boys are expected to review at least six books a term - preferably in different genres. So the age of libraries isn't yet dead and there's still something to fight for.

I used to be in a state of awe in my primary school library. My mom was a teacher in the morning shift and my classes started in the afternoon shift so she would bring me to school early and leave me in the library.I would spend hours browsing through shelves and reading books. My senior school library was much smaller but had better stock. Infact , our librarian was very fond of the small group of senior readers in the class, and she would keep aside books that would interest us. Infact , once we graduated, some of my friend who stayed in the town , continued to have access to the school library.

Excellent post. My children are lucky enough to go to a (state) school whose library has recently been extended. They have book groups, and special library lessons, as well as computer suites that are totally separate from the library. When I was at school we had an excellent library, and we weren't directed - how horrible for the other poor Jane. I would have jibbed at that too. The Junior School I went to just had bookshelves in every class, from which we chose books. The books were mostly pretty ancient, but I never minded that. I do remember the top year classroom had a whole series of the Cherry Ames books, but I was never tempted to try one!

My daughter's primary school library is housed in a newly built annex (money I helped raise when chair of the PTA). However, the library itself is managed by two elderly volunteers (very worthy ladies but I am not sure how appropriate it is). The children are rushed through on 'choosing day' and tell me of grabbing the first book they see with no help or advice from anyone. I recently set up an after school book group - unfortunately because the library is run by volunteers and the school does not suscribe to the Schools Library Service, I have no access to multiple copies of books or the Chatterbooks reading group scheme. The school recently called in the SLS to assess their library stock on a one off basis - they cleared 80% of the stock which gives some idea of the quality and relevance of the books held. I took my 'complaint' about the library and its underuse to the head, with an information pack about the services available from a qualified librarian - it all comes down to money. Luckily, the high school they are going to in September, has an excellent librarian & library - they are both looking forward to joining the book group there & using a 'proper' library.

I am glad to see libraries are still alive in some schools - I wish eveyone got that facility. Student Mum - it sounds as though you are doing good work.

Jane - was there never a "Cherry Ames: Horse Vet " then??

Vipula Gupta - welcome - I don't think you've commented before. I liked your blog Shades of Words too.

Thanks for dropping by on my blog too. I have been following your blog for sometime but got around to commenting just now.

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