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"I have students who now borrow books for their parents"

After our articles about #WhyBooksMatter and the cuts to library services, a school librarian got in touch to share her story about pupils' access to books and their reading habits

I’ve been working in libraries for over ten years now and about half of that has been as a secondary school librarian. You have probably heard it all before, libraries are unfortunately chronically underfunded. However, libraries have an infinite potential – how can you ever accurately fund that? Libraries need to provide a collection that is as varied as possible so book budgets can run out really quickly… As mine has.

I have no funds left for books until September now. I will try to steer students towards the public libraries, but many of our local libraries are just not open outside of school hours after all of the cuts. I have students who now borrow books for their parents and siblings because the school library is their only library now.

 Everything that is said about kids finding libraries safe spaces is absolutely true

On a much brighter note I believe that teenagers are reading a lot more than people assume or more than teenagers themselves are willing to admit or report to people carrying out surveys. The way I get teenagers reading is simple really, I have realised that us human beings absolutely love a good list!

So I make lots of them. Recent book awards lists, books that have been turned into films, fiction about current homework and curriculum topics. Make the lists nice and hand-held (tri-fold leaflets anyone), preferably on nice bright paper and people cannot resist them. A list also gives people a choice. Don’t try to press just one ‘essential’ book on a teenager. Give them choice and ask them what they are interested in.

As an aside, teenagers are still absolutely addicted to their phones though and many still do not know that the blue light emitted from many mobile devices can disturb sleep. Please pass this message on!

Also, everything that is said about kids finding libraries safe spaces is absolutely true. Sometimes I will run a quiz for the students to celebrate an event and kids who aren’t even taking part just want to come along and watch. It is as if they just want to soak up a nice happy atmosphere.

Many kids now say that they want to be a Manga illustrator – I can’t find many careers guides which cover that at the moment

Aside from quizzes, what are kids actually reading? Despite some of the recent negative press, the YouTuber Zoella has worked wonders with her book clubs. Manga is also really popular. It gives an insight into different cultures, alternative ways of being and the artwork is usually beautiful. Many kids now say that they want to be a Manga illustrator. I can’t find many careers guides which cover that at the moment.

Over the past few weeks I have also had lots of requests for books that explain politics and also books about feminism. I can only attribute this to current world events. This gives me hope and has really made me think recently. I wish more adults had the approach of ‘what is going on?’ rather than trying to shut things out. I love my job, working with young people and the endless possibilities of literature and culture gives me hope.

The author of this piece wishes to remain anonymous

Get in touch to tell us #WhyBooksMatter editorial@bigissue.com

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