Monday, 18 April 2011

Leaving School

Some of you may already be aware that I have recently been made redundant from the school library. I haven’t blogged about it until now as I wanted to gain distance and perspective first – reading a wholly negative blog post is no fun and benefits nobody. 

I worked at the school for almost 6 years and in September 2010 it merged with a local school to form a ‘new’ dual site school. The original plan was for the school to remain dual site, with some subjects on North Site and others on South Site. However, with the coalition’s controversial removal of the ‘Building Schools for the Future’ (BSF) programme in Summer 2010, the school lost £32million. This was a massive political u-turn and, at grass roots levels, it meant the school could no longer afford to operate two sites. So, ultimately, redundancies were made from both support and teaching staff.

I was informed of the redundancy in November and my dismissal date was this month. It has been a long and distressing 5 months, but looking back, I’m thankful to have had such a generous timeframe in which to find re-employment. And find it I did! In February I secured a job in a college library as Systems Librarian, starting in June. My initial response was purely that of relief; I felt blessed and filled with joy to have found a library job at a time when libraries are closing and making redundancies. Having gained perspective, I now feel excited about learning a new side of librarianship and moving back into FE. Working in a school library focussed on reader development activities whereas the new post will offer different opportunities, which I am keen to get my teeth into!

As I look back over my time at the school, I realise I’ve learnt such a lot and my work-related skills have developed massively compared to when I first started. Being made redundant was deeply traumatic in many ways, but it is important to me to find positives in every situation. I enjoyed working in compulsory education and being part of the school community; there are too many positive experiences to mention here but listed below are my favourite highlights:
    The aquarium: This saw an increase in pupil involvement with the library. The establishment of the aquarium was the talk of the school and helped make the library far more central.  It really brought the room to life. It was lovely to have baby fish in the tank!

    Parliamentary lobby: When the BSF programme was cancelled, a national protest was arranged and I was party leader for the school. A small number of staff, parents and pupils travelled to London to be interviewed by national newspapers and news programmes, as well as having a private audience with MPs inside parliamentary offices. It was an experience I shall long remember.

    Book quiz: Each year, all the secondary schools within Sandwell compete in a year 7 book quiz. In 2010, we were crowned Book Quiz Champions. Such a lot of work went into the quiz and I remember describing it as the pinnacle of my career. It was such a proud moment.

    Chartership: Until I began piecing together my portfolio, I didn’t quite realise just how much I did at work. People assume it’s an easy/boring job, but looking through the portfolio will show how it involves many surprising aspects. Flicking though it and seeing proof of everything school librarians do on a daily basis makes me feel proud.

    Podcasting: I was quite scared by this prospect at first as I’d never used Apple technology before. The podcasts went on the school website and the activity attracted the attention of boys rather than girls. Which leads me to my next highlight...

    Stats: It’s a long established fact that girls read for pleasure far more than boys. To tackle this, I established a ‘Bookz 4 Boyz’ section and focussed on books / field trips / activities aimed at boys. I am pleased to say that the month I left work, boys’ lending overtook girls’ lending for the very first time, by 2%.

    My library kids. My merry band of helpers. My library gang:
    Over the years this group of pupils has been fluid, with pupils floating to and from the library. It has consisted of boys and girls, years 7 – 13. It has been a real cross-section of the school community. When I found the new job I held a lunchtime party to tell them I would be leaving (the buffet included the most delicious cupcakes!). On my last day they presented me with a gigantic card (they each chipped in a quid!), a bunch of flowers and a wall display. Leaving the library kids has broken my heart and it’s been a privilege to play a small part in their lives. I hope I have managed to instill in them the value of libraries within society, so that when they grow into independant adults they will feel the need to support their local library.

    Unlike public libraries, school libraries are not statutory and the Campaign for the Book fights for this. Should this argument be successful - that schools must house a library and it should be staffed by a qualified librarian - I would not have lost my job. Children are the adults of tomorrow so it is important that they grow up being familiar with libraries, otherwise what will become of libraries in the future? School libraries are far more than a place teenagers go to sneak onto Facebook during the school day; please lend your support to this important campaign.

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