The Dixie Grammar School dates from 1320 and was re-founded in 1601 by an Elizabethan merchant and Lord Mayor of London, Sir Wolstan Dixie. The most distinguished of the School’s former pupils is Thomas Hooker, founder of Hartford, Connecticut, and Father of American Democracy. The best known of its teachers is Dr Johnson, author of the famous dictionary, who taught at the School in the mid-eighteenth century.The main building of today’s School was built in 1828 and faces the historic market square of Market Bosworth, and is a distinctive landmark. However, in 1969 the School was closed, as new, much larger comprehensive schools found favour. The school was re-opened in 1987 as a selective, independent, day school for boys and girls of all backgrounds between the ages of 10 and 18. There are approximately 350 students, with about 70 in the 6th Form. There are 42 academic staff, some part-time, and 17 support staff.When I arrived in September 2009, the Library was situated on the top floor of the stone building that you can see in the photo – taking up about half of the available space, with a classroom in the other half.
About me: From the age of about 8 I wanted to become a Librarian – inspired by the wonderful lady who worked in the Children’s Section of Canterbury Public Library! After a Masters degree in Ancient History and Archaeology, I took a Masters in Librarianship and kind of fell into school libraries in 1982. So, I have been in that profession on and off since – with some time off to have our children. I am now in my sixth school and am in my 6th decade! I have written for a range of publications, I blog and have given training and presentations around the UK. Those of you who know me, would probably say that I am passionate about our role – probably too much sometimes. Anyway, I have been fortunate to find my vocation in life and love, almost, every minute of it. This job at Dixie is really the fulfilment of a dream – to plan, design and implement a new library and then to take it forward to be a real impact on a school!
Teachers:There were many varied expectations of the library and librarian amongst the teaching and support staff. Some teachers had worked in schools with good libraries, but it became clear that most had little idea of what I could offer the school. Some were excited about the prospect of the new library and were open to suggestion from me about what would be possible. Others had little idea and thought in very traditional ways about libraries – and as for librarians, well, bun-and-glasses and date-stamps come to mind.So that I could really start a conversation about the possibilities and get to know as many staff as possible, I decided from the beginning to go to the staffroom every morning break instead of staying in the library. I attended staff meetings, assemblies, school events, training days and so on. I made sure that I contributed to the discussion as appropriate – not just talking about the library, but engaging in discussion about wider educational matters.
The top floor of the building was divided into two with a History Classroom to the left and the Library on the right. The main entrance to the Library was up a narrow staircase, marked on the plan. Staff and students came through regularly to reach the classroom beyond rather than use the proper entrance to that classroom, which is accessed via a long staircase.On the plus side, the windows are large and the ceiling high. The floor, however, sagged in the middle and could not support a lot of weight. The carpet and curtains were old and worn.Shelving was mainly wooden, of lots of different types and could not hold large non-fiction books. Three spinners had been purchased and there was a magazine rack. The Library had six rectangular tables with 6 chairs around each one, for students to work at. The tables were very small and students did not have enough room to spread their work out. Easy chairs and a coffee table were squeezed into the space. The Librarians desk was small with no secure storage space.There were no ICT facilities for the students or staff to use, although there had been some PCs in the past. There was an old laptop for the main desk – which I had changed to a new PC and the school wi-fi did extend into the library. According to the Library Management System, there were around 4,000 items in stock. More on that later!
The plan was quite a drastic one. First of all, the building is Grade 1 listed - officially designated as being of special architectural, historical or cultural significance. That meant that we had certain restrictions in terms of developing the building. It was clear that the existing floor would not safely support a new library. The school had already investigated the possibility of putting in a new floor, as we had been told that we could not replace the floor. The new floor would be supported on steel girders and would be about a metre higher than the existing floor. Therefore, more steps would have to be added.The main idea was to remove the wall between the Library and the classroom and rebuild it to make a smaller classroom at the other end of the space. The Library would then move to the far end and would be larger, with its own entrance. A new lobby would have to be build for safety reasons, but otherwise there were no other plans for how to utilise the Library area.It is envisaged that the small classroom space will eventually be incorporated into the library in 3-5 years. I already have plans for how this might be best used! A budget had been worked out by the Headmaster, based on refurbishment work he had managed in a previous school, and this incorporated development money over 4 years for the books and other resources.
The picture shows one of the plans that I made – one of very many until we had the finished version!
The old library was cleared out at May Half Term and the actual building work began at the beginning of July 2009. During the Summer Holidays builders brought in huge steel girders to create the new floor. Extra steps were added together with new walls and lobbies. A suspended ceiling was built and new lighting fitted. Decorating, carpeting and new blinds followed. The furniture fitters came in during the last week of the school holidays and the work continued as the students returned at the beginning of September. I don’t need to tell librarians how much work I had to do – opening boxes of the existing and new stock, organising my own equipment in my tiny store-room – I will skate over that! All through the process, I took photos and uploaded them to Flickr, using a widget to display the latest ones on the library online website.A tip – if you do this, make sure you take photos from the same position each time – I wish I had thought of that at the beginning! Anyway, the next few slides will show you the transformation that took placed – from a tiny gloomy space, to a small but beautiful library!
One of the tools I used to connect with students was a school-wide survey. It was successful up to a point – if you are interested, you can see the results on the Library Online website. Some students gave very silly ideas for the library such as – trampolines, beds, sweet factory – others put forward ideas that showed they had no concept of the possibilities. But the biggest surprise was the amount of hostility to change that came from many of the older students. They did not want their library to be developed, it was fine as it is, they were very concerned about the fate of the large black honour boards. This hostility actually grew, despite attempts to talk to the students and allay their fears about change. But as the survey was anonymous, I could not be sure that I was reaching the students who had written these negative things.There were a lot of helpful ideas put forward that we did feed into the planning of the library. BTW, I did not put the survey questions online as I realised very quickly that many of the students just would not have used this method.
Library CommitteeTo steer the development of the Library, we formed a Library Committee. This met regularly as needed with each member having specific tasks set by the group as a whole. The committee continued to meet through the summer holidays as the library refurbishment started in earnest and may continue to steer the development over at least the next year.We asked for quotes from a range of companies to do the building work – floor, suspended ceiling, new walls etc. And I contacted library furniture companies and asked them to visit so that I could discuss ideas and our requirements.
So into this small space we have fitted – shelving for around 4000-5000 books, including acrylic display stands and spinners to make the most of the space. Study seating that will take our largest class – 24 – with tables in a trapezoidal shape so that we can change them around. Worktops near the main desk for 6 fixed laptops with a printer. A drop down screen and projector. Floor sockets set all over the library to enable students to plug in laptops of any other device that might come along in the future. Soft seating with inviting cushions. Lovely display boards and acrylics to entice students to read. And we are beginning to vastly improve the book stock – after weeding, there were around 2500 books left – there are now around 4000 and rising. In the future, I will continue to weed out the older volumes and improve the collection within the constraints of the shelving. But I also intend to look at how we can use digital resources – databases and e-books to create a collection to enhance and go beyond the curriculum. The library will now seat around 40 students. And I have a comfortable working space with a tiny store!The future:There are plans to eventually get the classroom that was created at the other end of the space. I have ideas for how we might use this to create a different kind of flexible working area for our students and staff. But that is another story!
So here we are in October 2009, with a lovely refurbished library space. The stock is steadily improving and we have the facilities in terms of work-space and ICT that the staff and students deserve. So is my work now finished? Of course not – you all know that this is just the beginning! I now have to get the library used and continue the conversations that I started last year with the whole school community so that this library and librarian can have an impact on the school. We are a force for change and improvement – so watch this space!
I tried the usual formal things of asking Heads of Department to give me their Schemes of Work and lesson plans, or at the very least outlines and homework areas. So that I could begin to plan for re-stocking the library. As you would expect, this was as difficult as it seems to be in most schools and is still definitely a work in progress.Some departments responded very well. Modern Languages was a case in point. They were also interested in developing technologies – the HOD has his own blog. I was able to respond quickly to an expressed need for access to news headlines in different languages and so created the Netvibes page that you see here. This definitely made them begin to see me in a different light as they started to understand what a school librarian can actually do beyond their traditional idea!Other departments, such as History and English, gave me lists of requests during the year and I did my best to fulfil these where appropriate so that they could begin to see a real difference to the resources available to them through having a professional librarian.
Enjoyment of Reading<br />We are working hard to develop an exciting range of attractive books…. backed by the expertise of our Librarian, working with teaching staff to develop a love of reading.<br />
"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body." Richard Steele<br />
Cultural<br />heritage<br />Reading for pleasure<br />=<br />Creativity and imagination<br />Language development<br />Increased self-esteem<br />Emotional development<br />Sustained concentration<br />
“There is a strong association between the amount of reading for pleasure children reported and their reading achievement.”<br />Twist, L., Schagen, I. and Hodgson, C. (2007). Readers and Reading: National Report for England 2006. Slough: NFER<br />
Reading….<br />…doesn’t always have to be from books<br />
Library Online Services:<br />Our virtual library!<br />The next few slides show the range of online services being created by our Librarian for use in teaching and learning….<br />
The site is at http://library-online.org.uk<br />Our main Library website: Library Online<br />
Using Netvibes with Modern Foreign Languages<br />
47<br />Teaching Sixth Formers how to use online note-taking<br />
48<br />Sharing documents and collaborating<br />
49<br />Student organiser using Netvibes<br />
50<br />Librarian gathers & evaluates websites for staff and students<br />