when the library is more than a library

In some ways libraries have never just been about the books or the building.  Even since the first libraries they’ve been about a certain idealism, a world view, a concept of teaching, learning, enquiry, culturalisation, what ever you may call it.

So yesterday it shouldn’t have taken me by surprise with Ms. S asked me in a little bit of a panic what should be done with the books on the human body.  Of course once a library starts to become an organised entity, it is easier to find things.   And when one is a G5 boy (or girl) it seems that there are pressing questions that need to be answered.  And perhaps these questions are not being answered at home or at school, so in steps the library and books (thank goodness I’d say).   Luckily Ms. S was of the same opinion as me, but the question was what to do about the fact that some rather indignant parents had been ringing the school to find out what and why and how their kids were reading all this “stuff”. (Ironically of course those very children who had the most pressing need to be reading these books).

Now Ms. S is an experienced teacher who has dealt with things that I hope never to have to deal with, she’s open-minded, and recognises an education moment for an education moment.  But she’s had this library thing only a short while.  Even shorter than me.  So it’s hard to distinguish where her responsibility begins and ends.  Our discussion was a little about flipping the question.  Does the school have a counsellor?  Does it have a structured “personal and social education” curriculum? When does this start, what is dealt with when?  And how does that tie into the resources, book and otherwise that the school has available to its students and teachers.

Of course there are much bigger questions – like that of censorship. Like school policies on what is accessible to which age groups and in what context.  None of this can be decided in isolation.  I suggested to her she needed to involve the counsellor and the head of primary and the school have a “party line” so that when parents or teachers or children ask about the existence or not of materials they can refer to a policy or group decision and speak with one voice.

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