The Highs and Lows of School Librarianism

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with our fabulous School Library Service at the termly primary book review. It reminded me just how many fabulous books have been published this year, especially for Upper Key Stage 2, which are they ones I read most of. Every fiction genre seems to have had two or three real stand out books, and we’re seeing some great non-fiction books linking with our new curriculum at age appropriate levels.

Last night, I compiled my wish list, priced it out from all major suppliers to maximise the school budget. This morning, I skipped (emotionally, if not physically) into school ready to request a purchase order.

Then, the Booksnatcher struck, in the guise of the School Library Management System company, and their annual subscription invoice. Yes, we knew it was coming. No, we weren’t aware they had more than doubled their price.

The options:

  • Suck it up and look elsewhere ready to move supplier next year,
  • Spend even more upgrading to a system we don’t need,
  • Do a crash course in Databases, build my own and live in the school library until I have all the books on the new system, while still having to pay this year’s subscription.

The bottom line is, whatever option we pick, I don’t have any money left for new books. 

How ludicrous is that? The software company that sell to school libraries are literally going to put my school library out of business with their new pricing structure and product. How long can a library do it’s job properly without new books?

School budgets are being squeezed so tightly that subjects are competing for a shrinking pot of money, with libraries increasingly being seen as a luxury rather than an absolute necessity, despite the new curriculum for English stating that one of the aims is for children “to develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information.”

I’m lucky. My senior management team recognise the importance of the School Library in helping children discover the pleasure of browsing books, discussing books, recommending good reads to friends. But no matter how important it is, because the money has to go to pay for the library software, the library won’t get new books.

When are the government and businesses going to recognise that schools are not Hogwarts, and can’t magic up extra funds when they either cut funding coming in or increase payments going out?

It’s no wonder school libraries up and down the country are in crisis. 

I’m off to look for a book on how to build a database for a school library; I’ll pay for it myself…

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4 thoughts on “The Highs and Lows of School Librarianism

  1. mefinx says:

    I’d be interested to know how you get on. I can say from bitter experience that any cataloguing project involves a vast amount of work. And as someone who has been involved in a few primary school library start-ups, getting the books donated is the easy bit. Much more difficult to get anyone to pay for the things which keep them from falling apart and vanishing – particularly, of course, a paid librarian.

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    • missclevelandisreading says:

      We went with the upgraded system.
      My book clubs got first logins, and are our experts in the classrooms. They’re singing it’s praises, and UKS2 were really excited when they went on yesterday. Lots of them have been on today, some of them are even talking books! And, I’ve got reviews to check and authorise.
      So that’s all great.
      But I still don’t have any money for new books…

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      • mefinx says:

        Is this MSL Reading Cloud? Would be interested to know how it’s going. I run three primary libraries for the same Academy Trust. I tried to get MSL to link them together so I could do inter-library loans but they said there were safeguarding and data sharing issues. Fair enough but they seem to be promoting Reading Cloud as the answer to every problem right now and I felt it was too expensive. Can’t help reflecting that it is very much in their interest to have us paying three separate subs.

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      • missclevelandisreading says:

        Yes, it is. Too early to tell at the moment, but the children who’ve been given access are all very excited about it. I’m pushing the social media/blogging aspects for reviews, and have asked them all to add any books we don’t have to the wishlist, so I have a case for a book budget on top of the increased subscription. Or a big hand out from the PTA!
        I can see why they said no to three school together, you’d have one site for all three, so there would be data sharing issues, but you’d think they’d have a way of bringing the cost down to get it into a MAT.
        I think they’ve forgotten that their business is a school support service, and unless they sort their costs out, they won’t have customers who can afford them.

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