Hey cHEwY gum gums
One of the best things about being an author is visiting schools across Australia. I’d say that my first point of contact with a school is with the teacher-librarian and the first place I end up at (apart from the toilet if it’s been a long journey haha), is the library.
Many libraries are at the centre of the school for a reason, they are the heart of a school. But it’s a teacher-librarian (TL) who keeps that heart pumping.
I’ve seen libraries of all sizes, from large multi-story buildings to ones the size of a classroom. Honestly, the size doesn’t really matter. It’s how the library is being used. Only a TL can really unlock the true potential of a library for a school. I’ve been to a recent high school where all of their books were kept in a tiny, crammed room, because the computers were hogging the main room. Thankfully the TLs are moving back into the larger room, along with more shelves for the books. A proactive TL have sometimes been the difference between an excellent or average school visit.
A lot has been said about what impact a TL and library can do for kids’ literacy rates, but I think that’s not the only way we should measure a TL’s value. You see a TL has many powers, and one of them is hyping up books. They sell the idea of reading to kids. Sometimes they do this by reading part of a book, show off the latest books or through initiatives like CBCA Book Week celebrations or NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge. It might be a dazzling book display that gets a kid to pick up a book and give it a go. They could organise an author or illustrator to visit their school, so they can read their back catalogue to hype up the kids.
I’ve seen a shift in libraries over the years, in the way they’ve been designed. They’re not the dark dungeon-like rooms of yesteryear. They have plenty of areas to sit and lounge around. You can actually talk in a library these days haha. I think this shift is because we need to start looking at books and reading as something to do for enjoyment. Books are entertainment on the same level as games and sports.
Books have a lot to competition these days to catch a kid’s attention, but a TL can cut through all the dazzling bright screens and gadgets with a genuine recommendation of a book. You’ll always have lifelong bookworms like me in every school, but not everyone is born a bookworm. Some are made into one. I’m sure every TL would have a story about reluctant readers who would sneak in and ask for a book for the first time ever. Now they might just borrow that book once and never do it again. But you never know. That’s the beauty of books, all you need is a hook to draw people in.
You may never be able to prove a library’s worth with facts and figures. Sometimes you just need to hang around the kids and experience it first hand. I can walk around, ask kids about what they’re reading, and get a taste of the bookish culture at a school. I don’t expect a school full of bookworms. Yet you can’t rely on teachers to push reading on their own. Quiet Reading time could be a drag for some kids, if they don’t care about what they read. If only there was someone at the school, whose sole purpose is to read and promote reading for fun.
When kids ask me who inspired me to be a writer, I always mention my teacher-librarian. I tell kids to give them a hug because they don’t know how lucky they are to have one. Hopefully there will come a day where every single school will get to experience that feeling.