Monday, 5 October 2015

Embracing Autumn

We've reached the time of year when the school heating is switched on, but this year it doesn't feel like such a big event. With our gorgeous new windows, we'd barely noticed as the chill crept in and though by this time of year we'd normally have been freezing our butts off for a couple of weeks, this year it's been fine. Getting through winter is going to be a lot easier, and it should be better for the books too.

So, what are we doing as the leaves start turning?

1. NaNoWriMo preparation.
This year our aim is that 50% of the young writers joining us on this amazing and ridiculous journey acheive their original word counts. The numbers becoming NaNo winners has fallen over the last couple of years to the point where last year, not a single person reached the 50,000 word goal. We're stepping up our support for writers this year, with after school writing sessions EVERY DAY even if there is no one at them, additional biscuits, and plenty of lunchtime sessions too. Our classroom kit is here, we're planning our stories and can't wait to get started.

2. Knitting ahoy.
Autumn is the time of year when knitting and crafting warm and cosy things becomes a focus for craft club! This year we're looking to make as many pairs of Twiddlemuffs as we can. My grandfather has Alzheimer's and is currently in hospital, and day by day he's less able to be active and interact with the world. He spends quite a lot of time just sitting, and unwilling to do anything at all, but I think he'd enjoy having something to fiddle with, something that feels nice and keeps his hands warm. I'll be asking craft club to undertake the creation of Twiddlemuffs at a count of one per person. Some people will do the knitting, and some the embellishment.

Got yarn? We need your scraps! And buttons, zips, ribbons, anything that could make a tactile little insert.

3. Reading, of course!
As the nights draw in and we're drawn more and more to the comfy nest of blankets and hotwater bottles that we've built to be our reading dens* we're very lucky that our lovely donors are continuing to buy us the books we need to keep our readers busy. We're asking everyone who goes on a book-buying spree to buy us one book, so if you could help us out, please do!


Currently reading: Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson.

*No? Just me then? Awesome.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Opening Evening

On Thursday we welcomed prospective students and their parents to the school, and it was wonderful to see so many of them in the library. Huge thanks to those students who helped us out, especially those who took the time to dress up and spend the evening telling people about the library. You're all stars :D


Currently reading: The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

September again...

So, you know how I blog every September and resolve to blog more? Yeah. Oops.

There are some big changes this year, and though my resolution is once again to blog more, I'm hoping that I'll be spurred to action.

For starters:
Our budget has been cut. We used to have £7,000 to spend, now we have £2,000. This will cover our LMS subscription, the security gates, one or two essential periodicals and, er. That's it. Oh, and paper for the printer, but only up until the end of November. Our book budget from the school this year is a big fat £0, which has come as a real blow. Our lending figures were up again last year, the library is well used by students and staff, lunch and break times are joyous chaos, and we've been cut. The mission this year is #OperationNoBookBudget, which you can follow along with on Twitter (we're @RPS_library) if you are so inclined. The aim for the year is to remain positive (very difficult) and still provide a good service to our students. Last year, over 80% of our loans were books that we'd bought in the last twelve months so maintaining anything close to our traditional lending figures is going to be hard.

So far we've been hugely lucky in that people hearing about our plight have been absurdly generous. We've been opening Amazon parcels wince the beginning of term to find items from our wish lists, I have a car full of books kindly donated by the wonderful @mattlibrarian at Farrington's School and two boxes of donations from Hot Key books, who are not only excellent publishers but lovely people too. It's not yet known if we'll be allowed to even publicise our wishlists to parents but the reactions and responses from fellow librarians have been stunning. With a bit of luck and a show of good sense from those in charge, parents will be able to contribute and hopefully keep us going! There's a new curriculum and several new exam specifications coming in this year that have absolutely no resources in the library so the situation is going to get desperate pretty quickly.

But there is good news.
The library has new windows! After years of freezing all winter and baking all summer in our greenhouse of a building, we now have new windows that 1. open, 2. don't leak, 3. aren't mouldy and 4. are double glazed! The 21st century comes to Roundwood! It's made such a wonderful difference to the space up here. It's cleaner, brighter, easy to control on terms of temperature and so much safer. The old windows were single glazed and not even toughened, so when they broke it was only the manky self adhesive reflective film that stopped showers of glass everywhere. All of the old parts of the school are being reglazed, which is fantastic. In a way it's galling that millions can be found for windows but there's no funding available anywhere for school libraries, however much I love the new ones! Not dreading winter is quite a good change.

Currently reading: The Dream Thieves, by Maggie Stiefvater; Outlander, by Diane Gabaldon; One, by Sarah Crossnan.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Woah there, September!

Blog post

So here it is, another September. Once again one of my targets for this year is to get back to regular blogging, with the added incentive that this year I’m bribing myself with Twixes, so it should actually work.

There’s a busy year ahead of us! We’ll be taking part in NaNoWriMo again, helping our students to crash the 50,000 barrier and take off into the world; we’re working with the folk at Hoo’s Book Fest to bring about even more booky goodness; and we’re launching our mobile library, which will be making its way around the school at break and lunchtimes, staffed by our enthusiastic KS4 student librarians. Students will have a selection of the most popular books to choose from and can use the service to reserve, return and renew books from anywhere around the site.

Project Rainbow, our LGBT group, is growing in numbers and enthusiasm and is being headed this year by Tegan in Year 12 who has some excellent ideas for events and fundraising plans. I’ll be going on the Stonewall course for school champions later this year and will be spreading the word with staff and students.

Nerdfighters will be continuing on Wednesday lunchtimes, with this year’s theme of Myths and Legends for projects. Those completing projects will be invited to an Alton Towers trip at Easter. Because rollercoasters.  The 24hr Readathon will be taking place again at the end of the spring term. Last year, sponsorship raised enough money to buy two iPads and a Singer sewing machine for the library. The use of our non-fiction collection is dwindling, as expected, so it’s great to be moving more towards online resources. The sewing machine (we’ve named her Adele,) has proved very useful already and has been embraced by the Craft Clubbers and those who have adopted the library as a Maker Space. I’m looking forward to hearing from students later in the year about what else they’d like us to offer.

We’ll also be putting in a bid for some funding to establish an elibrary, using the ebook service from Brown’s, which is designed for school libraries and won’t trip us up with licensing laws in the same way that Amazon did with the Kindles. Fingers crossed, we’ll be able to set up before the end of the year, but it might take a funding bid for the next financial year to get it fully up and running.

And I’ll be continuing my use of the Bullet Journal system that I trialled for the second half of last year. So far it’s proved an immensely useful and flexible way of dealing with the varied and oddly paced workload that accompanies a school library.

The new Year 7s are settling in well, with inductions on-going and surveys being completed. Once again I spoke at the new Yr7 Parents' Evening about the importance of reading and the benefits it can offer. Getting my own research up to date was again so useful, and I found some of the evidence that was used to show that regular readers have a 10% advantage in maths. It's all down to neural pathways, and now I'd like to do a stack more neurological research! I may need the medical dictionary... The Year 8s are currently filling in their reader surveys so that I can track progress from last year

Oh, and it’s Open Evening next week! The library will host book themed cos-players for the evening and our display with be based around Shelfies, photos of staff and students’ bookcases. There’ll be a guess the bookshelf competition for students to complete.

Phew. Busy start!

Monday, 2 December 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013

Well, it's all over. NaNo 2013 has come to an end and as ever I've been stunned by the hard work and dedication of our writers. We had around 30 students taking part this year, not as many as in 2012 but our dropout rate was far lower too.

After a month of lunchtime and after school workshops, word sprints and melt downs, our month culminated in a final frantic day of writing on Friday 29th.  Kind and understanding teachers excused them from their lessons and they headed up to colonise the library. It all started calmly enough. Neat groups, sat around tables and pouring out words, but within an hour the structures of society fell away and chairs were abandoned, writing forts were constructed out of chairs, beanbags and snacks. It was wonderful!

My highlights of the day:
Sacha hitting his word goal and doing victory laps of the library.
Kiera weeping as she killed off one of her characters.
Huw's exploration of torture (though I admit this was more disturbing than I should encourage).
Robyn's wonderful scenes between her two main characters. So. Cute.
Caitlin setting down for a quick snooze with Hobbes, the libary tiger.

Well done to everyone who took part, both those who won and those who were still slogging away at the end of the month. You're all stars.


Tuesday, 24 September 2013

3…2…1...Open Evening is GO!

Well, it’s nearly go. It will be go on Thursday, when we once again open up the school to the hordes of local Year 6 children, enthusiastic Year 5s and there’re always a few Year 4s being shown around with parents who clearly believe in extreme preparation.  The whole school is looking spick and span, with the newly refurbished hall is looking particularly impressive.

Up here, we’ll be showing off our collection and sniffing some of our new books, with some of our student librarians settling down to do book covering, sticky sticking and reading chat. We’re also hosting several small workshops run by our Craft Club members, which is just wonderful as we’re just able to hand them resources and off they go. Kiera in Yr 9 will be running a Zentangling workshop, ably assisted by her new apprentice Millie, Robyn in Yr 9 will be running a crochet session and Theo in Yr 8 will be teaching prospective students how to make flapping paper origami cranes. I’ll be supervising these things, sneaking off to read a few pages of my book (I’ve finally jumped on the Gone Girl bandwagon and OMG… Remind me never to get married. Ever.) and gabbling about books and reading to all and sundry.  Usually we send several families away with long lists of recommendations to take a look at, which always puts a smile on my face.


Our huge notice board out along the English corridor will be split this year into features about our most popular books and awards for our most avid readers, with additional sections on Nerdfightaria and Craft Club. As ever, it’s nearly impossible to tell if you have enough resources for that thing until it’s time to put everything up, but I’m hopeful! Have been inspired by Pinterest this year and have coloured in all my staples withSharpies. Yes, I am that sad. But they look really pretty and everyone else will be really jealous. Just you wait and see… 

And how the blazes do Frank House have so many House points already?! They're up over 400! C'mon Wilberforce, this year is OUR YEAR.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Happy New Academic Year!

It's September again! Seems that it came round really fast this year, but we were glad to come back to our lovely students and a new intake of Year 7s who seem more excited about reading and books than any we've had so far, so it should be a great year!  Have already identified a key group of comic fans who I'm hoping will join us to shadow the Stan Lee Excelsior award.

So, what's going to be happening this year?  Hopefully, loads! I've had my contract upgraded to full time, from term time only and a set number of hours per day, so fingers crossed, all the little extras and activities that I've always wanted to get going (yes, including regular blogging) may finally get off the ground. I'm looking forward to the following things:


  • NaNoWriMo! I'm going to be hitting November at full pelt again this year, with a large crowd of young writers at my side.  There will be snacks.
  • 24 Hour Readathon.  It took a surprisingly short amount of time for the students to convince me that it would a good idea to do this again. It certainly was an experience last time, even if it did lead me to the woeful conclusion that I'm too old to pull an all-nighter.  Woe, woe and woe indeed.
  • Reading programmes with Year 7 and 8.  In consultation with our literacy coordinator, Mrs Briggs, we're going to be getting Reading Passports for all our younger students and using these as a keystone for our work on developing good learning and reading habits, and reading for pleasure.
  • Scholars' Projects.  This is an expansion of the Nerdfighter projects that we started working on a few years ago, and will be targeted towards our Gifted and Talented students, known as the Roundwood Scholars.  There'll be more structure to it that the 'off you go' attitude of the Nerdfighter ones, but there is a lot of student crossover so I know I'll be seeing some amazing work! Hoping that I can engineer a trip to Alton Towers as a reward. No, not just for me, for the students.  And me. I do love a good rollercoaster... *sigh* 
  • MOAR BOOKS! We don't really need to go into detail with that one! There will be more books, and more reading. Along with coffee, that's the best thing ever.
  • Craft Club. This will be continuing after school on Thursdays, so our knitters, crocheters and sewing fans will have a weekly focusing session, possibly involving snacks. 
I'm also going to be following the progress of some of my local librarian colleagues, who are trying out a new system of working with the non-fiction parts of their collection.  The idea is to make it much more focused and more directly relevant to curriculum modules, tying non-fiction back into research and learning.  It's a wonderful idea and a mammoth undertaking to get it in place, and I have absolute admiration for those who are trying it out! 

It's going to be a busy year.  Looking forward to it :)

Friday, 26 October 2012

What a half term...

This has been a very difficult start the year, with the loss of Mr Geraghty and bereavements for several members of staff, and awful news for some of our ex-students.

The library has been very much a centre for all of us struggling with the events of this term so far, and I'd like to thank all our students for the kindness they've shown the staff and each other at this time.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Please welcome Mrs Chandler!

It's a new year, and we're welcoming a new member of staff, Mrs Chandler, who is taking over from Mrs Sweet now that she's retired.  She may look very familiar to a lot of people as she's been working as a parent volunteer here for years, but it's great to welcome her to the library team!

Please drop in and have a chat.  I'm determined to teach her to crochet before the year is out...

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Year 7 Reading Programme

This year we're launching a new Year 7 reading programme, aimed at refocusing our energies on reading for pleasure.

The beginning of secondary school is a challenging time for many readers, as the business of school  and life can take over from reading, and a lot of students find that they put books down and don't pick them up again.  Our aim this year is to ensure that this doesn't happen.

Year 7 students are being asked to read for ten minutes a day, every day.  We're tracking their attitudes to reading via a survey and will be tracking their reading through the use of library Reading Logs, which will be issued to students each time they have a library lessons.  Huge numbers of commendations are up for grabs! We'll also be writing more reviews, making recommendations and developing our use of the library as a resource.  For more details, please drop me an email!