This week I found myself in Northampton, the birthplace of Ray Gosling, and immediately had a Ray Gosling experience with a cab driver. I discovered he was a former antiques dealer who specialised in oriental rugs but had recently turned to record collecting. He asked me to peer over on to his front seat (it was a black cab) where there was a box of delights of various things he was trying to flog. We then discussed abstract art, the best uses of a shed, reading, accents, his council estate, and how to deal with fly tipping. If it hadn’t been for the library conference I was attending I could quite happily have stayed with him in his cab all day.
I had made a 2hr 45min train journey (2 changes) from Nottingham to give a 15 minute talk at ‘Rising to the Challenge: Reimagining the school library’. It was a lot of effort for a relatively short plug for DOTU but one I wouldn’t have missed for the world. Locked away in a room with 30 librarians is my idea of heaven. But my real motivation for attending was to see what school librarians had to say as they are integral in shaping the lives of many children.
The conference was framed around a quote from Alan Gibbons (Alan has written our Geoffrey Trease comic out on 8 Jan 2015): “It is not enough to have a school library. A library without a librarian is a room. A school library is not just a room. It is a relationship. It is also a culture.”
There were lots of interesting talks that included: the National Literacy Trust, ebooks, the library experience, augmented reality, the Story Stack Project, the importance of questions, adapting to change/economy and much more. Unfortunately I missed the morning sessions but was glad I got to hear Nicki Adkins’ talk on ‘Establishing reading and independent learning from year 7’.
Nicki compared her job to that of Bruce Willis in Die Hard and how you have to have a can do attitude in the face of adversity. I won’t ruin it for you (or tell you who the terrorists are in her metaphor) as she’s going to do us a guest blog soon, but it left me feeling so happy that there are enthusiastic librarians out there really changing kids’ lives through some innovative strategies and approaches to learning. From Nicki I discovered the @nerdfighters who, apparently, will take on challenges and help support your projects. They have been contacted.
There was also some incredibly frightening statistics from Debbie Morrison OBE, Principle Kingsthorpe College, about the differing opportunities for kids from public and private education, and the percentages of people who end up dead before they’re 26 if they haven’t got into a job or education when they leave school. These sentiments echo our own, with recent research into literacy and opportunities suggesting the UK is facing ‘downward mobility’. As with the librarians at this conference, our aim is also to create a thirst for reading and to utilise digital to enable numerous routes into literature.
I’m still buzzing from the conference and feeling so inspired by the passionate librarians of Northampton, and Adele Finch for inviting me. I don’t know if there is a similar conference in Nottingham but if there is I need to get to it as there were lots of offers from Northampton librarians to come back and talk to their pupils. If anybody can help with this or encourage schools/librarians to get us in for a talk, please do get in contact.
- Schools without Libraries are a Disgrace, Russell Brand (thebookseller.com)
- The Future of Library Services: Westminster Hall Debate (alangibbons.net)
- Marvellous Librarian: Nicki Adkins (wesatdown.blogspot.co.uk)
- What do Librarians do all day? (voicesforthelibrary.org.uk)
- Don’t overlook your school librarian (theguardian.com)
- Ray Gosling last print interview (leftlion.co.uk)
- Many Hats of the School Librarian (mzzcolby.blogspot.co.uk)