Today I had the pleasure of meeting library manager Jenny Carroll and librarian Vhairi Miles at Wellington Girls College. (WGC)--These two ladies make a perfect team! When I arrived, the library was flooded with girls who quickly found spaces for themselves wherever and everywhere. Some worked on computers, while others sat at tables chatting and eating, while others sat on bean bags on the floor.
The girls are allowed to eat their lunch in the library and those that I spoke to said they love coming to the library during lunch. It was raining today so I asked them if, on a sunny day they would be eating outside and they said no, they love coming to the library and eating there! They said they like being able to eat their lunch and work at the same time. There was a very casual, yet respectful culture and while there was no whispering, the students have good self management so it did not get very noisy despite the fact that there looked to be around 100 or 200 students in there at one time.
This is a BYOD school and many students carry devices. There are no restrictions as to when they can use these devices. It was refreshing to see that the girls were social (with each other in person), despite their proximity to their devices. In some schools, the students (more often I have noticed it with boys), they choose to place their attention on the device and not on the other nearby students.
This special library has a library cat, Talullah who is very loving and helps the girls study for tests as well as be available for hugs and cuddles on demand (lol) . I can tell that she really has a great home here and is a great fit as the WGC libary cat. Apparently, she voluntarily left her last home when the family got a dog and she adopted the girls at this library to be her new family.
The librarians provide sessions that cover research skills, evaluation, curation, digital citizenship, along with monthly displays/promotions and periodic special programs and projects. This library is often host to professional development sessions for other librarians. In addition, the librarians gather materials and resources for teachers to support them in their teaching of the curriculum.
At the WGC library, relationship building is a priority and everyone is made to feel very welcome. This is an inclusive space that provides a room for the clubs to meet, a quiet space for students who need to focus, a place for the learning support specialist/guidance counselor to meet with students, and where student voice is valued. When the library was rebuilt the Māori students named the library He Kohinga Maramatanga or the Place of Knowledge. The land where the library sits used to be a beach and the local fish gathered there. Now, the space is a gathering place for knowledge instead. The Pacifica culture is represented in beautiful artwork at the stunning library entrance where students from all cultures represented at WGC can read the word "Welcome" in their respective language.
I hope I have covered the highlights from my visit today. The library has a beautiful collection of books, many flexible spaces, beautiful paint colors, fantastic lighting, wonderful student librarians Most, if not all secondary schools have librarians with qualifications and they seem to feel like familiar high school libraries. There is much more variation on the funding for libraries at the primary school level. Walking into any properly funded and well functioning library is always a breath of fresh air.
Sue is a teacher and school librarian living in Atlanta, GA, USA. She was in NZ as a Fulbright Distinguished Teacher from Feb-June 2016.