A little bit about my library

Given that this is the adventures of a school librarian in Thailand I thought that I should at least mention something about the school library.

I manage two libraries; one on top of the other. The bottom one is the junior library and the upper one is for seniors. There is also a separate sixth form collection and a Pre-prep one (nursery and Infants) which we also look after.

I am lucky by UK standards to have a team of seven staff: an assistant librarian Marivic, 5 Thai Library assistants and an Intern (Charlotte from Scotland) This may sound like a lot but the library is very busy and many of the procedures are very labour intensive, largely because the Library Management System is quite basic and I am used to much more automation. I have investigated and there is not much in the way of competition for ‘Destiny’ so I am a little bit stuck with what I have. I am changing the procedures gradually (as those who have worked with me might expect)!

The library has 42,000 items in stock but many are in extremely poor condition. This is due to the fact that they are borrowed constantly so they work very hard in terms of issues, but also because the glue in them is designed for the north American or European climates so doesn’t last as long in this humidity and heat, so the spines of the books break and the pages yellow more rapidly. It is also probably true that some among the elite class of children that we serve don’t always treat their material possessions with much respect. Often if something breaks another one just appears…

So our stock is tatty and tired and I have begun a massive weeding programme (tbh I think that I have shocked my team by how much I am discarding…) however I am buying heavily to replace with entire sets of ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’, Asterix or Roald Dahl etc. I have also bought every single dinosaur book that I can get my hands on as these seem to race off the shelves. Buying is a little frustrating though as I am tied to using a local bookshop and they are SLOW to say the least. The owner of our school also owns the building that the book shop is in so we have a directive to use them. Working in the private sector in a foreign country has these arrangements which are alien to me and I am having to get used to them.

My library was also designed by an architect who appears to have no concept of what working in a library is actually like. Although it is aesthetically pleasing from the outside each library has three levels and a spiral staircase connects the two. I counted 7 sets of stairs and there is no way that you can push a trolley anywhere for shelving. The manual handling risks are enormous (never mind the stress on my calves from running up and down them continually). The turn over of stock each day is very high as classes visit continually throughout each day. Each year group has 5 forms so that’s a total of 65 classes who visit weekly. I go to read to the Nursery groups each week but I can’t do class sessions with all the others so they largely swap their books or the teacher reads to them. In addition our architect designed floor to ceiling windows which mean that we cannot put shelves against the wall or have multimedia. So I get a fab view of the river from my desk but I can’t teach with technology as it’s too bright!!!

All the library furnishings were copied and made in Thailand (as is the way here) but are too chunky which means that the floor space is very cluttered. We are hopefully getting some funding to do a renovation and I have big plans… will have to see what happens there. I have been warned that even if we get the funding we may end up with what the architect gives us rather than what we actually want. I suggested a meeting with the architect but have been warned that they may sit and smile and nod but just go away and do their own thing anyway… (again the frustrations of working in the private sector in a foreign country). Still, whatever we get will be an improvement. The school is due to expand from 1700 pupils to over 2000 by 2021 so we definitely need more space.

The nicest part of the job though is book promotion and here you can see some of the creative and ingenious book displays that we have. My team are very creative and do spend a lot of time making the displays. I have even been turned into a blue Guardian of the Galaxy but a photo of that will have to wait. I love seeing kids relaxing in the various nooks around the library space and just reading. Motivating them isn’t a problem, they are voracious readers – getting them to read good quality literature, well that is a different story.

Right now I am busy reading the longlist for the Bangkok Book Awards (having been out of the children’s market for some time I am not up to date with my reading so I have much catching up to do). This has been great fun though and I am enclosing some recent book jackets here. My massive thanks go to Rosalind Buckland at Ripley who pointed me in the way of some recent fiction before I left the UK and this has been hugely helpful when approached by students who say “Can you recommend something for me to read…”

My days are busy, there is always something going on and next week I talk to the new parents about how they can encourage their child to read at home. My power point is prepared and I am expecting anything up to 80 parents. The school always lays on a delicious spread whenever the parents are around. But no matter how busy my days I am grateful for the lack of stress which was so pervasive in HE. I count my blessings here that I have a great job in a good school with a fab and supportive team. I am now off to finish ‘The boy who Swam with Piranhas’