The Elms Library – A National Finalist!
As a Head, I haven’t been to many award ceremonies and walked the red carpet, but all that changed earlier this week! I was delighted to be invited to speak and make a presentation, along with Mirelle Hyde (Elms’ Librarian) and Annike Dase (Head of Library Services), in an award ceremony held in the City of London for the three finalists in the Library Design Awards.
The Elms Library had been entered into a national competition run by the School Library Association, which involved not only a hefty written submission, but a day where the judges came and met with children and staff at The Elms and saw the library in action.
When The Elms Upper School was extended three years ago, the Governors had the determination and vision to ensure that we would not only provide the much needed classrooms for our expanding school, but a library that would be truly exemplary in the primary sector. Increasingly, school libraries are seen as a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘need to have’, but the recognition we received in reaching the national finals showed we had indeed invested in the best possible facilities for children at The Elms.
What most impressed the judges, was not only the look and feel of our library, but the way the children used it and valued it as a resource to help them with their learning.
At The Elms, our library, apart from being a beautiful space, is at the heart of the reading culture that permeates our school. Whilst it would have been wonderful to win a design award for our welcoming, visually stimulating, user-friendly and child-centred library, there is something fundamentally more important than the room. A room full of books, or even e-books and download suites, does not in itself make a library. We live in a world of unprecedented digital connectivity, access to all the information in the world at the touch of a button, we have 50,000 friends on Facebook and yet we do not know the names of people who are our neighbours or whom live down our street.
What truly makes a library, the heart of a learning community, is the people who work there. What makes the difference at our school is having a fully-staffed library; Librarians who are great story tellers, fantastic organisers, avid readers, and above all, good listeners. They are the human interface that makes our library what it is. Although the technological revolutions mean the onslaught of e-books, may we never lose our librarians, who are the gatekeepers and tour guides to the printed word.
The winning design was a community project in an inner-city primary school, which converted an old London bus into an amazing iconic library in the playground, encouraging reluctant readers to get reading. It was an amazing idea and a truly worthy winner.
At The Elms, we’re always thinking of ways to improve and develop what we do here. So… if any parents know of a spare Boeing 747 that needs a home, it could be parked just outside my office, I think I have an idea…do get in touch!