Librarians working in schools often work independently, but may also manage a small team of library assistants: volunteer, paid, or pupil. School library collections include educational material and fiction for children and young people. School library staff play an important role in promoting reading through displays, activities, and discussion.
To find out more about working in school libraries, and to view job vacancies, check out the School Library Association.
Being the Graduate Trainee at the Sackler Library in 2017-18 was the start of a career change for me from educational publishing. After feeling my role there wasn’t quite right for me, I applied to the Bodleian trainee scheme to see whether libraries would be a better fit.
I really enjoyed the trainee year and wanted to continue in libraries, so I decided to pursue the MA in Librarianship at Sheffield straight afterward. I opted for the one-year, face-to-face course because, realistically, I wanted it done quickly. Going into that, I thought academic libraries might suit me best, but an underlying passion for education pulled me back in that direction, so, after graduating, I started the job I have been in for over two years now: as the librarian at a comprehensive secondary school/academy with students from 11-18 years old.
Working in the school sector has its challenges, as you are serving a wide range of pupils with different needs. You need to think on your feet and be prepared to switch modes multiple times each day, let alone throughout a term or school year. The role is varied, from the basics of running a circulation library (ordering in suitable resources; processing and cataloguing; issuing books) to more creative work in promoting books and reading, running competitions, and organising events like author visits and extra-curricular clubs.
Some schools have a small library team, but I am a solo librarian with no formal assistant currently. It can be tricky falling between support staff and teaching roles, and you have to advocate for your role and sing your own praises.
There are many positives to a role working closely with school students, though, such as feeling you can really make a difference in young, often disadvantaged, lives. I love reading the latest literature for children and young adults so I can recommend and promote the best books.
There is nothing quite so rewarding as seeing a student’s face light up when you place the right book in their hands at the right time. Recently, one usually reserved Year 7 student broke out into a little dance in the library at lunchtime when I loaned her the book she had been waiting for. Moments like that definitely make it a worthwhile profession to be in.