Our Libraries continue to be two of the busiest hubs within our School. Both the Barbreck and Nicholas Libraries serve our staff and students as a focused learning space, a place for collaboration and socialisation, and a designated space for a myriad of co-curricular activities.

In the midst of this activity, the core business of any Library service is to support and develop student literacy. No matter how many new devices and technologies become part of our learning, it is fair to say that we still live in a heavily text-based society. There is more text for our girls to read, decode and comprehend now than ever before – more information appearing on the internet, and more and more books published (and now self-published) every day.

Therefore, reading for pleasure continues to be hugely important – not only as time out from our hectic and information saturated schedules, but as an enjoyable way to really boost our literacy and better equip ourselves to deal with the deluge of incoming text. The Library team at St Catherine’s are ever mindful of the link between reading for pleasure and increased literacy levels, and are devoted to encouraging a love of reading in our students in a variety of ways.

We have hit the ground running in 2017, beginning the year with a celebration of Library Lovers’ Day on 14 February. Students were encouraged to ‘go on a blind date with a book’, taking a chance on a wrapped book with only a few clues as to what the book might be about. This technique of ‘blindly’ choosing something to read has been very successful in exposing students to different genres and authors – often those that they would not have normally chosen. Plus, there’s also the excitement of unwrapping the ‘present’ to see what’s inside!

Hearts were in abundance from Junior School to Senior School, where students and staff shared both where and what they love to read. There’s nothing more powerful than peer recommendations to boost interest in reading, and both libraries took every opportunity to allow students to highlight their most cherished stories. It has been such a joy to see some of our Year 6 girls holding impromptu story time at lunchtime – reading stories to new students and sharing the books they love.

Library classes at Barbreck Library and English Wide Reading classes at the Nicholas Library have also begun in earnest, and this is an opportunity for our two resident teacher librarians to support our girls not only in choosing the most appropriate and engaging books, but to encourage them to challenge themselves and step outside their comfort zone. Beginning at ELC, a trip to the library to choose books to read every week is par for the course for a St Catherine’s student. This doesn’t stop in Senior School, where Senior English students are always looking for their next book to read with the aim of improving their vocabulary as well as taking a well-earned break from their studies.

Our book displays are always changing, designed to highlight genres, styles, current topics and the latest book releases. Libraries have, for a long time, taken their cue from the merchandising style of bookshops; utilising front facing books to entice and engage the reader, and creating a physical flow to the space that allows users to browse freely. With this in mind, the Barbreck Library has recently swapped its fiction and non-fiction collection, allowing a newly opened window to create a cosy reading nook.

With well over 6000 fiction titles across two branches and a knowledgeable and enthusiastic library staff ready to assist students, staff and parents on the best choice for ‘what to read next’, we’re looking forward to seeing what kind of literary discoveries and adventures our users will find amongst our shelves in 2017.

Ms Kathryn White, Head of Educational Resources and Information Centre