The shrieking shrew and other issues – a rant!

I’m burning with passion to write this post.  I visited the secondary school library yesterday, mainly to interview the librarian, or Learning Resource Centre Manager, which is the title that has been invested upon her. I came away alternately saddened, angry, and frustrated, that an opportunity to have a fully operational library has gone so horribly wrong.

Firstly, the school has no staff room.  In the ‘old days’ as they were referred to, staff met for a quick before-school meet in the library.  Now they meet for 15 mins on the first day of the week, in the hall.  A mid-week 15 min meet-up for primary and secondary teachers in their respective groups happens as well, but otherwise very little chance for teachers to make longer contact.   This to me seems like a group of teachers not fully connected, and not least with the library facility, since there is no encouragement at all to pop in and see what is on offer.  In fact, the senior management of the school declined to answer any questions I had regarding the library as they felt “unequipped to answer”, not knowing what happens in the library.  I could cry!

To add to this, the school operates outdated library management software, and only for the librarian!  No-one has had training on it, no-one is prepared to pay for training on it, which I believe, is hugely expensive and via Skype.  The only person that has access to the catalogue therefore, is the librarian, because the technology capacity of the school (in one of the richest countries in the world), is so dodgy, that it takes a full 5 mins just to open a WORD document!

The librarian is frustrated, having never been given a proper job description, neither recognised as librarian nor teacher.  No-one in management seems particularly interested in her job, nor her library.  She has a host of responsibilities, with only a few of them pertaining to managing the library.  She is doing spine labelling by hand! Typing little pieces of paper, cutting them out into squares, and attaching them with scotch tape. One of her tasks is to provide tea/coffee to surrounding class teachers, because with no staff room, and nowhere to gather, if you’re located next to the library why not pop in there for a chat and coffee?, even if there is another lesson going on!

Talking about lessons in the library…why, oh why, take a bunch of Year 7 boys into a library, shout like a shrew for them to “get a library book to read – quickly, and sit down.” They then proceed to have 40 WASTED mins pretending to read from a book, grabbed from anywhere on the shelves, in which they have zero or very little interest; they are sniggering, whispering, fidgeting, doodling, staring blankly – everything except READING!!! And when the period is over the shrieking shrew tells them to “put the books back where you found them!”.  Well, besides the fact that they don’t have a cooking clue where they took the book from, they also just want to get out of there as fast as possible and into the next class/break time.  The books land up anywhere – anatomy with fiction, insects with volcanoes, and fiction scattered anywhere in-between.

During this supposedly silent reading, the teacher shows no interest in what the students are reading, and proceeds to gossip with the librarian, enjoying a freshly-made cup of coffee!  I want to froth at the mouth when she shouts out “SHHHHHHH! [wholly unacceptable in this multi-cultural society] A library is supposed to be a quiet place!”

Well, OK, relatively quiet, I’ll concede, but not in the way she defines it! Those kids will never willingly set foot in a library, guaranteed!  And when they get to college, their remote memories of secondary school’s ‘forced’ reading will come flooding back and they will sidestep the flippin’ library and resort to Google! No wonder Google is doing so well… we the librarians, teachers, parents, educators, professionals, have failed to make the library a ‘want-to-go-to’ place, especially in a school.

The budget is supposedly sufficient – for what?  There is no mention-worthy technology present.  Twelve computers that are dreadfully slow, a scanner linked to one computer, and one printer that works.  No e-resources subscribed to (not even Encyclopaedia Britannica), no electronic catalogue, few current print resources, dodgy furniture, no mention of the library on the school’s website….I could rant on and on!

So, I have to do the SWOT analysis.  Yes, it’s easy to identify problems, potential, threats, (few strengths at this moment in time) – but inside I’m so sad.  Sad that yet another year will go by and those learners will have no support, no idea of how to approach a library for learning, no clue how to find resources, no clue how to make full use of information and teachers that are forcing their multi-cultural class to pick up a book and READ! I cannot see that strategy work….you have to make them WANT to read.


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