Thursday 1 October 2015

Visit to the Dragon School Library

On Monday 28th September, we visited the Dragon School Library in Oxford. Beth Ash from Radley College Library has kindly written the following summary of our visit:

What a treat to be in leafy North Oxford on a glorious sunny September afternoon.  We were visiting The Dragon School, an independent mixed boarding and day school for children aged 8-13.  Tucked away  just off the Banbury Road, the school felt  100 miles away from the bustle of the city centre.

Our motley group of school, university and public librarians were welcomed by the Dragon School Librarian, Helen Mastrantone, who showed us across campus to the library.  Helen works full time across five days and is aided by a part time Assistant Librarian, to cover opening hours from 8:00-6:00 through the week and 8:00-12:45 on Saturdays.  My first impressions were of a well laid out, spacious and comfortable library, with thoughtful and clear displays.  Helen’s obvious enthusiasm for her role was apparent throughout the visit and it was fascinating to hear about her journey from teaching into school librarianship. 

Helen talked us through her ‘imaginary average day’, describing the mix of activities that make up her role at the Dragon School.  I was impressed by the amount of organised contact that students have with the library, with every English set having a reading lesson in the library each week.  This means that Helen has contact with every child in school across the timetable.  As well as this considerable responsibility, Helen’s role also includes the usual tasks of book buying, cataloguing and classifying (amongst other things!).

What kept coming across was Helen’s care that the children should feel ownership of their library.  She described herself as a custodian of the library, actively encouraging recommendations and suggestions from the students.  This struck a chord with me and the environment we try to foster in our library at Radley – in both instances the school is also the children’s home.  It is important that the library is a place that they feel comfortable, welcome and want to spend their time. 

It was great to hear some frank discussion about the positives and challenges of school librarianship, and helpful to swap tactics on dealing with issues such as building relationships with other school staff, library discipline and line management.  For me, working in a very similar setting, much of the conversation resonated and I enjoyed seeing what was clearly a well thought out, and well run school library service at work.  

This was my first foray into attending CILIP events, so I was a bit nervous about what to expect, but based on this afternoon’s event I can thoroughly recommend taking the time out to meet up with other librarians.  It is invaluable to see how other settings are putting ideas into practice, and there are certainly some aspects of Helen’s work at the Dragon School that I will be taking back to Radley.

Grateful thanks to Helen for her kind hospitality and all the work she put into our visit, and to Becci for organising the trip.  

Beth Ash – Assistant Librarian, Radley College Library

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