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Life-changing Libraries


Gillian Harris

Gillian Harris, MBE
Tower Hamlets SLS

Cressida Cowell’s letter to the prime minister today is extremely welcome.  School libraries and the people who run them are a vital element of school life – research has shown that the life chances of children are greatly enhanced by reading for pleasure.*

Libraries need books and space to keep them in, but the joy of the school library is that children can explore all kinds of writing and choose for themselves what they want to read, so the choice of books and how they are presented is central to success and needs to be tailor-made for each individual school community – and this means the most crucial element of the school library is the librarian running it – the person who brokers that interaction between the children and the books.

Schools Library Services are passionate about good school libraries and it’s completely our business to provide good advice to help create excellent libraries – on the type of shelving available, on furniture ideas, on design, on how to go about buying the books, on how to organise them, on training for teaching assistants – we can de-mystify for you those colour codes and numbers that are on your books!

Schools Library Services can also help you find a librarian to manage and develop the school library  – this does not have to be a full-time post, although the more hours a librarian has to work with each class the better.  SLS UK in London acts as an agency to provide schools with a librarian for a number of hours each week on an annual contract.  

Your librarian will bring the world of books and reading into the school and work with the teaching staff to organise reading activities and events all year round, make sure you know about national activities, freebies and events, help you find good authors to visit the school and ensure you have an excellent selection of books in the library to reflect the interests of the children in your school.  Because of their know-how, connections and expertise, I’ve known librarians procure quality free books for the school that exceed the cost of their salary!

Headteachers who have librarians consistently say what a massive impact this has on enjoyment of reading in the school. One headteacher in a primary school in Tower Hamlets said “The work of a School Librarian has the potential to make a huge contribution to the school in ways that I had not realised until we found ours. Her work has impacted directly on the children; their involvement and enthusiasm for reading as well as our participation in enrichment activities and the maintenance of the reading environment.”

Gillian Harris MBE
Tower Hamlets Schools Library Service

*Teravainen-Goff,  Anne, Hackett, Sian & Clark, Christina  (2020)  Aspirations, literacy and gender. National Literacy Trust Report.

*Crawford, Claire and Cribb, Jonathan. (2015) The link between childhood reading skills and adult outcomes: analysis of a cohort of British children. Institute For Fiscal Studies.