Tag Archives: School libraries

Jurassic libraries: five go on a safari to deepest Dorset

On a lovely spring day in mid-March, we climbed aboard the Dorset Safari to visit a selection of libraries along the south-west coast. First stop was the Wey Valley School Library, where we learned how Eileen Harding, the Learning Resources Manager, had transformed the reading habits of pupils using the Accelerated Reader Programme (introduced in September 2014). From a standing start, when few pupils picked up a reading book, the most recent academic year saw pupils read over 1,700 books – that’s over 54 million words. How did she do it? Well, Eileen enlisted the help of Renaissance Learning software which matches children’s fiction books to pupils’ reading level and interests. The software then tracks their understanding via an online 34-question quiz after each book they read.

The questions are carefully phrased to check each pupil’s knowledge of the storyline as well as their understanding, and each book is selected to expand the pupil’s vocabulary. Eileen also uses the information to identify pupils with special needs, so that they can be given any extra help they require.

The software tracks the progress of individual pupils’. It has been noticed that boys, in particular, love to know how many words they have read over the term. The school now has dozens of word millionaires! The pupils are encouraged to set themselves targets and like the immediate feedback provided by the quiz, which motivates them to read even more. As a result, 89% of students have seen an improvement in their reading age during the course of the first year.

The Wey Valley School Library uses the Micro Librarian System to manage their stock, which includes the Reading Cloud, accessible via the Internet. It can be used as a social media platform, allowing pupils to chat to one another about books they have read. If they want, they can blog about books they’ve liked and make recommendations. It even allows pupils to add their own home reading books, so they can share them with friends.

Our second stop was The Verne Immigration Removal Centre in Portland, which houses up to 580 immigrant detainees while their cases are being assessed.

Originally, The Verne was designed as an impregnable fortress, built by convicts from Portland Prison between 1860 and 1872, to protect the harbour and nearby coastline from invasion. In 1937, it was being used as an infantry training centre, then converted to a prison after the Second World War. It eventually become a medium-security prison for over 600 long-term ‘Category C’ prisoners. Finally, in 2013, its function changed again when it was designated as one of the country’s immigration removal centres.

Even though most detainees are there just a short while (sometimes as little as a day), it is a requirement for all detention centres to have a library. Dorset County Council administer the one at The Verne, which stocks books, newspapers and magazines in a variety of languages. Elizabeth Bean, the Librarian, says there are currently 53 different languages spoken by detainees at The Verne, with the most common being Bengali and Chinese.

The detainees have free access to the Library every weekday, two evenings per week and at weekends. Elizabeth hinted that providing a library service for detainees can be emotionally challenging because they are often distressed. Given the predicament of the detainees, it is not surprising that the most sought-after books are on immigration law. The Library also offers a legal-aid booking facility and information about charities and immigrant support groups.

After a splendid lunch at the Jailhouse Café, we were driven inland to Dorchester Public Library, which opened in 2013. Apart from the normal library fare, it offers community spaces where locals of all ages can meet and learn. Spread out over three floors, the ground floor also plays host to various partners, such as tourist information, adult education (skills and learning) and the Dorset police contact unit. Within the complex, there are six classrooms that are used for various activities – many of which are oversubscribed. One new feature is the Changing Places accessible washing facility, that is available to members of the scheme even when the Library is closed. I imagine this will be a huge help to those with restricted mobility that cannot access facilities elsewhere.

The Library sees an average of about 1800 customers per week and also offers a Housebound Service to 71 residential homes in the region that get free delivery of books. This service replaced the mobile libraries that were abolished by the local authority during December 2016. Dorchester Public Library also acts as a hub for inter-library loans, which are handled in a busy back office. In total, there at least 10 staff are on duty each day in the Library, with over 20 in the team altogether.

Francesca Roper explained that space on the upper ground floor is divided into themed zones including Teenage Headspace with shelves of teenage literature and an easy access Children’s Library, where popular rhyme-time sessions are held twice a week. Another innovation, are the Library Gets Lively sessions for under 5’s and a Chatterbox reading group for slightly older ones, as well as a Youth Group for the 11+ children. In fact, since other youth activity providers have lost funding, this is now the only youth group in Dorchester. Classrooms are also used for adult skills and education, including the Reminiscence Sessions, where older members of the community can come in and share their memories and experiences. Digital Sessions are also popular, where members of the public can bring in their own equipment and get advice and guidance. Throughout the Library, the glass walls and pastel carpets and furnishing create a welcoming, airy, open atmosphere. The bookcases are also deliberately spread out, so that no space feels claustrophobic. At the back, an innovative Autism Room (designed in conjunction with the charity Autism Wessex), features dimmer lights, bean-bags and soundproofing to create a safe, soothing environment.

Just across town, the Dorset County Hospital Education Centre was our final stop on the Dorset Safari. Morag Evans, the Trainee Librarian, told us that they provide information and research facilities to almost 1000 registered members, in a variety of NHS posts. Within the Library a new digitalisation project was underway, archiving patient records. The staff organise educational events for doctors, including lectures and workshops. The library staff also conduct literature research and provide research training for doctors and other staff. In addition, they offer referencing and reflective-writing workshops. They also carry out Ward Rounds and make book deliveries to the workplace. Although most of the research is available online, they have found that some NHS staff insist on a printed version. It seems that nurses, in particular, prefer to look at something on paper rather than on screen.

Jonathan Edwards

Senior Library Assistant (Bournemouth and Poole College)

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Gryphon School Library: Inductions for Year 7 and Year 12 pupils

CILIP SW blog intends to be a window into all sectors of library and information services in the South West region. Here Julie Hoskins, LRC Manager of the Learning Resource Centre, incorporating the Library at Gryphon School, Sherborne reflects on the challenges of the busy autumn term.

The Gryphon School, Sherborne, Dorset is a large comprehensive in a mainly rural, farming area.  Most of the students are bused in from the neighbouring villages.  The LRC is in the centre of the school on two floors with 17 PCs and working space for around 90 students downstairs and 53 computers upstairs.  We are open from 8.30 am until 5.00 pm every day.  We have a large sixth form (approximately 450 students), who have to register with us during study periods, so our days are pretty busy.  I am lucky enough to have two assistants that make up a full-time role to help me with the running of the LRC.

At the beginning of term we have the usual intake of 250 new Year 7 pupils and around 125 new Year 12 students (with 125 staying on from Year 11).  This is a busy time in the LRC; our loans are always much higher in September and October. I also have to try to schedule in library inductions to make sure students have the knowledge to find the information they need.

The Year 7s have traditionally used one of their English sessions (we work a fortnightly timetable) to come into the LRC and I teach a series of six lessons between September and Christmas.  This works well and enables me to cover the essentials such as how to find the books on the catalogue as well as the shelves, how our Library Management System (LMS) works and writing reviews on books. I also have time to do a few fun activities like; playing The Reading Game [a game devised by Carel Press to inspire young readers], making bunting featuring favourite books and authors to hang up in the LRC and looking at the books for sale in Scholastic Books’ travelling annual book fair.

The Year 7s really enjoy their sessions, run with the aid of technology; we have three class sets of i-Pads that can be booked by teachers.  I have been able to make my sessions much more interactive.  For my introductory session, rather than spending 30 minutes just talking about the LRC, I have made a series of QR codes to link to videos of me telling the students about the area (there are 12 clips in total, all less than a minute long).  This works well, as they get to move around the LRC and find where things are.  They can also listen to the clips more than once, if they don’t understand the first time around.  The LMS that we use, Eclipse, has an app for the Library catalogue, which the school has purchased.  I am able to use the i-Pads and the students can log into their accounts, look up books, and then take the i-Pad with them to find the book on the shelf.  This is so much easier than them trying to remember the cover and the Dewey number / fiction code to find the item on the shelf.

Gryphon School Library

Trying to get Year 12s in for inductions has proven a little more difficult.  This year, I have managed to get a slot with two tutor groups at a time coming in during afternoon registration.  This has been challenging to say the very least.  Afternoon registration is only 20 minutes; by the time they have registered and remembered to come to the LRC, it has left me with a maximum of 15 minutes and a minimum of 10 minutes to deliver a presentation, which would have been a lot easier with around half an hour.  That said, I have managed to deliver a brief version of my presentation. Hopefully at least the new Year 12 students know where to go to look for information and can always ask if not sure.  We subscribe to InfoTrac Student Edition, which is a database of online magazines and academic journals and issues online.  I also encourage students to become members of their local libraries and access the free online information available through them.

I know that I am lucky in my school that everyone sees the importance of the students knowing how to use the LRC and time is allocated, even if shorter than ideal to try and fit in the inductions.

Julie Hoskins

Gryphon School bunting