Saturday, 18 May 2013

WAITATI SCHOOL: Do we need a school library?

by Heidi Hayward

Term Two has kicked off happily at Waitati School and we continue to make healthy progress with our roll. We're very close to enrolling our 51st child, which will move us back to a 'U2 status' (51-100 children) and allow us staffing of three teachers. While the Ministry of Education will not guarantee this for longer than 2013, the ministry will allow our Board of Trustees some financial support with staffing for the remainder of the year and we very much look forward to this.

Meanwhile, we are busy rearranging the school now that the Blueskin Library has relocated to Harvey Street. We were sad to see them go; it's been lovely to host Louise and her team while the library was redeveloped.  However, we are very much looking forward to using the vacated building, which is really a top-rate facility.

We are in the very enviable position to be located in such close proximity to a public library -- I can't think of another school in Dunedin that has such easy access. This has really got us thinking about the purpose and efficiency of our school library. Schools have traditionally had a library as the main source of non-fiction information, and so that children have ready access to fiction for pleasure. Of course, we have now entered a new age of information and non-fiction books have largely been surpassed by the internet. In schools especially it requires a decent budget to keep an up-to-date collection of non-fiction books and the internet is usually the first port of call.

Furthermore, a good library requires good resourcing in terms of both staff and budget, and schools always struggle to maintain libraries for this reason. In most cases, the school library is maintained because it provides the only access for many children to a library but after three years working with the fabulous Blueskin Library I see that this is not the case for us. Our children have the opportunity to use a real library, with all the benefits that come from proper funding and staffing, from age five.

We have, therefore, approached the Dunedin Public Library with an offer to gift a significant proportion of our collection to the Blueskin Library and use the Blueskin Library as our school library. The collection we have far exceeds the size of the school. Most of the books gather dust. By gifting to the Blueskin Library, all of the children in Blueskin Bay would have access to the books.

Also, children at Waitati School will get the experience of using a real library. School libraries are frustrating because we have no proper search mechanism. We see there is much better learning for children to get to know and understand how a real library works. We plan to maintain a multi-purpose break-out space in place of our school library, part of which will be dedicated to reading -- an activity that children at Waitati School relish.

We hope you'll consider joining us for our Matariki Celebrations on 13 June. We'll again hold a lantern parade followed by an optional hangi (available for purchase by pre-order) and some story telling. Everyone is welcome -- the more the merrier! The evening kicks off at 5pm and will finish about 7pm. 

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