Yesterday, as part of the Services to Children and Young People module which I am taking at library school, we paid a visit to Tower Hamlets Schools Library Services. The central purpose of the Tower Hamlets service is to maintain a wide range of supplementary learning resources which can be borrowed by primary and secondary schools. Teachers are able to borrow up to 70 resources at any one time, either by visiting the collection in person or by submitting a fax or an online request form, and the resources can help to supplement what is available in the school’s library. What’s interesting about this collection is that the items available to be borrowed don’t just include books, CDs or DVDs – the collection also contains toys, costumes, games, models, puppets, textiles and various other unusual artefacts which are designed to be used in lessons.
The collection is tailored to support the national curriculum and it also aims to reflect the multicultural and diverse community in which many of the local schools are based. It’s a fantastic resource for schools because it provides a cost-effective and efficient way for them to acquire additional learning materials.
The service in Tower Hamlets also offers professional advice and training to schools with regard to the management of their school libraries; this includes advice on stock purchasing, library computer systems, classification, information literacy, and the development of library policy. Schools are also encouraged to employ a professional librarian on a regular basis.
In addition to this, the service helps to organise creative writing and poetry competitions, compiles lists and reviews of the latest and best Young Adult fiction, and also organises the annual Tower Hamlets Book Award which encourages children to read and vote for their favourite books.
Fortunately, this service hasn’t yet been subjected to any harsh budget reductions and so it continues to be very successful, but many similar services across the UK have ceased to exist due to a lack of funding and this is a huge shame because services like this clearly have the potential to be highly valuable to schools and school libraries.
I’m glad that I had the opportunity to visit such an interesting and diverse collection – a collection which, in my opinion, is made even better by the inclusion of this one particularly fabulous item which I discovered while I was exploring: an extremely grumpy-looking plush figure of Vincent Van Gogh, complete with his own detachable Velcro ear – brilliant! 🙂