Tuesday 20 January 2015

A day in the life of a librarian: Michelle Thomas, Hampshire School Library Service Advisor, Basingstoke

This month's posting in the "day in the life" series is from Michelle - our fantastic Publicity Coordinator for CILIP in Thames Valley. Here is her account of a typical Tuesday:

I am one of 10 professional advisors in Hampshire’s School Library Service & normally begin my day by arriving at our north centre between 8.30 & 9.00 o’clock.  We have 5 centres county-wide and 3 mobile library vehicles. Each centre is located on a public library site or a school premises and has around 25-30,000 resources in the centre at any one time.  Our centre has a further 76,000 resources currently in use in schools. Hampshire SLS is a large and successful service and we bucked the national trend last year with 92% of our schools (state and independent) buying into the service. This is in stark contrast to England & Wales generally, where less than 60% of authorities have any SLS at all. We are ably supported by 1-2 administrative staff in each centre and they are invaluable. Our new three year SLA offers schools a wide range of resources and activities to support curriculum requirements and foster a love of reading.

Today however I am visiting a school so arrive after the school crush at 9.15 in Andover.  I am visiting the Head Teacher and librarian of one of the 115 subscribing schools we serve in the Basingstoke and Andover area.  The advisory meeting begins with the librarian who is being trained to reflect the changing priorities of the school.  We discuss the appearance of the non-fiction collection, considering signage, shelf labelling, general layout & displays.  The Head Teacher joins us and we head down to the fiction collection to look at similar concerns for the layout and design of the collection.  Both libraries must operate as self service points for the pupils and a general discussion ensues about the software and how to get best use of this as a promotional tool.

The range and variety of the stock is also deliberated and I suggest ways to refresh the stock using our lending service more effectively to support the curriculum and reading for pleasure needs in school.  The Head requests another meeting with an advisor and the school English Manager to discuss new resources that we can recommend for purchase.  We will have to analyse the school catalogue beforehand. Our resources are selected by the librarian during the mobile library exchanges which visit the school twice a year. Resources can be provided for topics requested by email through the school courier network also.  I complete my visit with some one- to- one training looking at the use of the LMS and the support materials subscribing schools have access to on the SLS Moodle (VLE).

40 minutes later I arrive back at our Basingstoke centre.  There are 4 other centres in the county and I am based in the north. After a quick break and informal meeting with the Lead advisor about the schools visited within the last 4 days, I return to my untidy desk and emails.  I must record minutes for the morning meeting, chase resources for the email requests that have arrived that morning and reply.  Resources are sometimes difficult to locate particularly for the new curriculum at present and they often involve time to assemble.  I have an interesting request today for books on crime and punishment through the ages.  The teacher has not mentioned the year group concerned so after some detective work on the school blog, I discover this topic is for Year 4 (8-9) year olds.  I locate some non-fiction by looking at different periods in history, gauging the reading age of the text & selecting accordingly.  We generally supply some fiction to support curriculum topics so I must give more thought to this too, but manage to find some fiction to enrich the topic.

Shortly after this, the primary school booked to do a full school exchange arrives bringing in their wake 200+ books.  When a whole school attends there are generally a lot of teachers & with a 2 class entry there are 8 teachers today for us to help & advise.  I help my colleague with some of their requests- fiction for able year 5 boys, fiction for the “inventors” topic & then I must go.  I have another school visit booked for this busy Tuesday. 

This time I am off to a large primary school in Basingstoke.  They have invited me in to run a staff meeting raising awareness of the LMS they have in school and it’s curriculum applications.  I demonstrate the multi issue/return facility, the pupil reading records and how these can be interrogated to ascertain how the pupil is progressing.  We look at the reviews facility which enables pupils to do book reviews and publish these electronically. Finally we discuss the implications of the enquiry side of the software looking at and considering the use of Boolean operators and the potential this provides for teaching their pupils how to refine search enquiries.  The meeting is concluded with a flying visit to the SLS Moodle to share the area where we place our booklists.  

We also have an information literacy package here which is a progressive programme which can be introduced at Reception and is completed in Year 6.  One of the teachers enthusiastically talked about how they had used this extensively in her last school, embedding it into the taught curriculum.  After answering a couple of questions, I leave school and by 5.45, am home for the day.  An early finish provides me with the chance to do some reading; I am preparing for a primary school fiction meeting and will need to read titles across the key stages to introduce to the teachers.  The theme for this meeting is “Beyond the door” so am busy identifying and reading new books for this talk.  A busy Tuesday is over & I settle down with Kenneth Oppel and his new book “The Boundless”.

Do you have an interesting role, or would you like to share your experiences in Librarianship in the Thames Valley? Get in touch with the CILIPTV committee and guest-blog about it. Remember: you can use this in your Portfolio to show engagement with the profession!

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