A Library is More Than The Sum of its Parts

This image is part of an ‘essay in pictures’ by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell, entitled Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming that appeared recently on The Guardian website. You can read the full story here.

This pictorial essay has been one of the most viral articles on the subject of libraries that I have seen in a long time. It must have struck a chord with many people, and it was personally quite gratifying to have several of my friends, family and colleagues send this link to me, usually with the words, ‘see? SEE?’.

Being a librarian is an extremely underrated profession, and is one that comes with a seriously strong stereotype attached. I confess, I have often overplayed the ‘teacher’ and underplayed the ‘librarian’ when I tell people that I am a teacher-librarian. Sometimes, it is actually just easier to say you are a teacher so that you do not have to deal with the surprisingly strong reactions you get when you tell them you are a qualified librarian. I have been called ‘boring’, a ‘nerd’ and have been told my profession is ‘a bit obsolete’.

But Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell’s pictorial essay, and its popularity amongst the general public has galvanised my pride in being a librarian. And maintaining a strong sense of pride as a librarian is important – because librarians are what make a great library.

The last month has seen the launch of a really important online campaign: Students Need School Libraries. While the campaign advocates for physical libraries in schools, it strongly emphasises the need for qualified and passionate librarians.

At St Catherine’s, we are incredibly lucky – we have two beautiful, well stocked, recently renovated libraries that sit right in the thick of both our Junior and Senior Schools. But our libraries become great because of the people inside them: the people who ‘put the right book in the right hands at the right time’ (Terry Denton & Andy Griffiths, 2018); the people who ask you how you are and maybe slip you a chocolate when it is needed (even though there is no eating in the Library); the people who run book clubs; the people who will excitedly listen as you debrief about the book that rocked your world; the people that know, somewhere, there is a book out there that is exactly right for your child that ‘does not read’ – and find it. And we most certainly have those people in our libraries.

Ms Kathryn White, Head of Educational Resources and Information Centre